For the approximately 2.5 million men living with prostate cancer, a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that eating nuts and other foods high in vegetable oils may play a role in lengthening their lives.
Compared to men with prostate cancer who ate the least amount of vegetable fats, the men who ate the most had a lower risk of dying during the study from cancer or any other cause. Study analysis also concluded that men with the disease may lower their risk of dying by replacing calories from carbohydrates and animal fats with vegetable fats.
The study included 4,577 men diagnosed with nonmetastatic prostate cancer between 1986 and 2010. Every four years the men reported their typical diet during the previous year, answering questions on fried food consumption and what type of fat they used to cook. The study focused on mortality related to consumption of different types of fats: saturated, polyunsaturated, trans, animal, and vegetable fats.
After a median of almost 8 and a half years, 1,064 of the men had died. Most of the men – almost a third –died from heart disease. Another 21 percent died from prostate cancer specifically and another 20 percent from other cancers.
When the authors broke fat consumption into five groups, from the lowest amounts to the highest, they found that men with the disease who ate the highest percent of their calories from vegetables fats had a lower risk of dying from any cause and prostate cancer specifically compared to the men who ate the least percent of calories from vegetable oils.
Most of the men’s vegetable fats came from salad dressings, nuts, mayonnaise and margarine. Vegetable fats are usually high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Using intake and a modeling technique, the authors calculated that substituting vegetable fats for 10 percent of daily carbohydrate calories linked to a 26 percent lower risk of death from any cause; substituting vegetable fats for 10 percent of calories from animal fat linked to a 34 percent reduced risk of death.
This finding follows on a separate major study published in April showing that a Mediterranean diet, which is filled with nuts and healthy vegetable oils, linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
In the United States, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death. This study focusing on prostate cancer survivors adds to the evidence that eating nuts and olives and other foods with vegetable fats can reduce risk of heart disease and improve health, but it’s all about the balance, says Alice Bender, MS, RD, AICR’s Nutrition Communication Manager.
“Americans eat too much refined carbs, such as white bread and baked goods. Cutting down on animal fats and carbohydrates is great if you are replacing the red meats and refined carbs with nuts and other healthy foods,” says Bender. “But you need to be careful not to increase your calories because it’s easy to overeat on fats and that could lead to weight gain.”
Excess body fat increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many cancers.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that almost 239,000 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. The disease claims almost 30,000 U.S. lives annually.
AICR’s expert reports have found that for preventing prostate cancer, diets high in lycopene and selenium both reduce the risk. Foods high in lycopene include tomatoes and watermelon; foods high in selenium include mushrooms and Brazil nuts.