Can New Diet Fight Prostate Cancer?
A new study reports that a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and
beans, coupled with exercise and meditation, can help slow, stop, or even
reverse prostate cancer for men in the early stages of the disease.
Dr. Dean Ornish, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of
California-San Francisco, led the study. Ornish, who is best known for his
support of low-fat diets in reversing heart disease, is now contending that diet
changes could also help reverse prostate cancer.
A group of men in Ornish's study underwent drastic diet and lifestyle
changes, then saw reduced levels after three months of a blood marker for the
disease. The marker, known as prostate specific antigens or PSA, is a protein
produced by the prostate gland. High levels in a man's bloodstream can indicate
prostate disorders, including non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate or
Participating in Ornish's study required quite a change of menu for men who
like high-fat foods like cheeseburgers and fries. The Ornish diet is extremely
low-fat, with just 10 percent of the participants' nutritional intake coming
from fat, according to the author of Eat More, Weigh Less , who presented his
findings over the weekend at a conference on alternative therapies held at
"It is a vegan diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and soy
products instead of dairy," Ornish told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America .
"They exercised three hours a week and they did an hour of meditation or
other stress-management techniques every day. They also took part in a weekly
No Harm in Diet Changes
Since patients in the study had already opted to "watch and wait,"
rather than undergo standard treatments like surgery and radiation, there is no
harm to Ornish's regimen, ABCNEWS' Dr. Tim Johnson said.
"In such a group, there's nothing to lose and possibly something to
gain," Johnson said. "I say 'possibly' because it's too early to tell
after just one year of follow-up. The key will be over whether longer follow-up
there is a survival difference in the two groups," he said.
Still, Johnson warned that patients who need radiation or surgery should not
interpret the study as a sign that they can simply diet and exercise their way
to health, when that may not be the case.
"This is not a replacement for traditional therapy when that's indicated
or a replacement for regular PSA screening to detect early prostate
cancer," Johnson added.
Are Results Significant Enough?
Every year, nearly 200,000 American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer,
and the disease kills 30,000 men annually. Those who survive face difficult
treatment choices: either surgery or radiation, strategies that do not always
work, and can cause impotence and incontinence.
Ornish's study looked at 84 men who were in the early stages of prostate
cancer. None had elected to treat the disease with surgery or radiation. Half of
them did not make any diet or lifestyle changes, while the other half adopted a
low-fat diet and started moderate exercise.
At three months, researchers measured the subjects' PSAs, which will be
measured again after one year. In just three months, the group with the low-fat
diet and exercise changes saw their PSA's drop 6.5 percent, Ornish said. Those
in the group who stuck closest to the diet and exercise regimen saw their PSA
levels drop 9 percent.
After three months, the group that did not make the diet and lifestyle
changes had higher levels of the blood marker, suggesting that the disease
Many oncologists say that a decrease in PSAs of anything less than 50 percent
is insignificant. But Ornish maintains it is statistically significant, adding
that patients don't need the PSA to go down, but do need it to stop from going
"If diet and lifestyle can not only stop it from getting worse, but
reverse progress of the disease, there are certainly implications that this may
help prevent prostate cancer," Ornish said. The findings may have
implications for the treatment of breast cancer, too, he said.
The subjects will continue to be studied over four years to see how they
fare, Ornish said. Future studies will look at how the program works in
preventing recurrence in those who have been treated, and whether it works in
preventing primary prostate cancer, in addition to reducing high PSAs.
Ornish said he does not encourage patients to use his regimen instead of
conventional treatment, but says they should discuss the matter with their
doctors. Even if they decide to go with conventional treatment, however, he said
they may want to consider his program as an adjunct.
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June 28, 2015