June is Men’s Health Month! We use this month to raise awareness of preventable cancers among men. Today, over 90 percent of prostate cancers are diagnosed at an early stage. Earlier detection, combined with more effective treatment, has made prostate cancer more survivable than ever.
For prostate cancer survivors, androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) stops production of testosterone and can slow the growth of prostate cancer cells. But side effects of ADT may include weight gain, muscle loss, higher risk for osteoporosis and heart disease and less chance of survival.
Researchers at Ohio State University wanted to find out whether a program of physical activity and nutrition education could reverse these risks.
Elizabeth Grainger, PhD, RDN, Clinical Research Nutritionist, and colleagues at The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus recruited 30 men who had been treated with ADT and were over age 65. The study was called the Individualized Diet and Exercise Adherence Pilot Trial (IDEA-P).
Half the men in the controlled group, received written information and phone calls. The other half, the active study group, met for 8 weeks. Dr. Grainger educated the active group about healthy eating based on AICR’s Recommendations. They also received individual instruction in weight lifting from staff at OSU’s James Cancer Center.
Becoming More Active
At the beginning and end of the study, the mobility of men in the active group was measured in tests such as walking 400 meters, climbing stairs on a timed basis and lifting the most weight they could using their chest and leg muscles.
Before the study began, Dr. Grainger says most of the men were overweight and not getting enough physical activity. “With instruction in how to safely use weights, the men in the active groups felt more confident,” says Dr. Grainger.
Dr. Grainger used AICR’s New American Plate model for healthy eating. Each week’s lecture focused on a topic like carbohydrates and fiber, protein, sugar and vitamins and minerals.
Finding Peer Support
A crucial part of the study was meeting in small groups to get help with concerns and questions. “In the groups, they could address ways to make physical activity routines and nutrition changes work,” Dr. Grainger notes.
More than half the men were invited to bring spouses or partners to the nutrition classes so they wouldn’t be trying to switch to healthier eating habits alone. “The men in the active study group were very adherent to the intervention, so they reduced weight and body fat, ” Dr. Grainger recalls. “After three months, they also showed significant improvement in mobility and upper body strength compared to the control group.”
Ron Scharer, a survivor in the active group who owns an insurance company, says, “Through the study, I gradually reduced my weight. I felt better and was more motivated to be active.”
He and his wife were active runners through their 50s. However, he recounts, “As we aged and with my cancer treatment, our physical activity slowed down. The IDEA-P study gave our exercise program some structure. We now use our local YMCA several times a week.”
Ron decided to bring a similar program to his employees. “We have a small group who work well together and care about each other,” he says. “With the generous assistance of Dr. Alex Lucas of OSU, we developed a program like IDEA-P.”
Ron and his staff used AICR’s New American Plate materials to help them eat healthier. They track their diet and used pedometers to measure their steps and take group walks. “Our program aims for having fun while improving our health,” Ron notes.