According to a new study, a diet that limits meat and dairy products but is rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts is associated with less erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, and other common side effects in prostate cancer patients.
Conducted by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, the analysis of over 3,500 men with prostate cancer investigated whether adopting a more plant-based diet is linked to post-treatment quality of life issues. The study categorized patients into five groups based on the proportion of plant-based vs. animal-based foods they reported consuming. Authors found that the quintile consuming the most plants achieved 8 to 11% better sexual function measurements compared to the quintile consuming the least.
The results also showed up to 14% better urinary health and fewer cases of incontinence, obstruction, and irritation. Furthermore, the highest quintile of plant-based consumption saw up to 13% better hormonal health compared to the lowest. Dr. Stacy Loeb, lead study author and urologist, stated, „Our findings provide hope for those seeking ways to improve their quality of life after undergoing surgery, radiation, or other common treatments for prostate cancer, which can have significant side effects.“
Adding more fruits and vegetables to their diet while reducing meat and dairy products is a simple step patients can take, added Dr. Loeb.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prostate cancer is one of the most common and deadly cancers among American men. Prior research from the same team has already indicated that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of developing the disease. Other studies have shown that this diet is generally associated with a lower risk of sexual dysfunction, but not specifically for people with prostate cancer, who are at particularly high risk for such problems.
The study, which will be published online on February 13 in the journal Cancer, is also believed to be the first of its kind to show better urinary health based on diet in these patients, according to Dr. Loeb.
For the research, the team analyzed data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study sponsored by Harvard Chan School. The dataset includes information from over 50,000 male healthcare professionals. The aim of the project was to better understand how diet influences risks related to cancer, heart disease, and other serious illnesses.
Among the findings, the consumption of large amounts of plant-based foods was associated with better sexual health, urinary health, and vitality scores, regardless of demographic factors, lifestyle differences, or previous medical issues such as diabetes. Consuming healthier plant-based foods was also linked to better bowel function, possibly due to the fiber content in plants, explained Dr. Loeb.
Dr. Loeb noted that the men included in the study were predominantly white healthcare professionals. The team plans to expand its research to a more diverse group of patients and those with advanced stages of the disease.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, New York State Department of Health, Tricia and Michael Berns, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Other researchers involved in the study include Qi Hua, MSc; Alaina Shreves, MS; Edward Giovannucci, MD, ScD; Scott Bauer, MD, ScM; Stacey Kenfield, ScD; June Chan, ScD; Erin Van Blarigan, ScD; Alicia Morgans, MD, MPH; and Lorelei Mucci, MPH, ScD.
NYU Langone Health / NYU Grossman School of Medicine
Loeb, S., et al. (2024) Plant-based diet is associated with better quality of life in prostate cancer survivors. Cancer. doi.org/10.1002/cncr.35172.