After diagnosis: vegetable fats better; animal fats deadlier

According to a new study published on line yesterday in JAMA Internal Medicine, “replacing carbohydrates and animal fat with vegetable fat may reduce the risk of all-cause mortality” among men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer.

This new study by Richman et al. is based on prospectively collected data from 4,577 men with non-metastatic prostate cancer in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2010).

According to the research team, at a median follow-up of 8.4 years:

  • 1,064/4,577 men (23.2 percent) died of any cause.
  • 315/4,577 men (6.9 percent) died of prostate cancer.
  • Crude rates of fat intake per 1000 person-years for the men who died of prostate cancer (highest vs lowest quintile of fat intake) were:
    • 7.6 vs 7.3 for saturated fat intake
    • 6.4 vs 7.2 for mono-unsaturated fat intake
    • 5.8 vs 8.2 for poly-unsaturated fat intake
    • 8.7 vs 6.1 for trans fat intake
    • 8.3 vs 5.7 for animal fat intake
    • 4.7 vs 8.7 for vegetable fat intake.
  • Crude rates of fat intake per 1000 person-years for the men who died of any cause (highest vs lowest quintile of fat intake) were:
    • 28.4 vs 21.4 for saturated fat intake
    • 20.0 vs 23.7 for mono-unsaturated fat intake
    • 17.1 vs 29.4 for poly-unsaturated fat intake
    • 32.4 vs 17.1 for trans fat intake
    • 32.0 vs 17.2 for animal fat intake
    • 15.4 vs 32.7 for vegetable fat intake


  • Replacing 10 percent of energy intake from carbohydrate with vegetable fat was associated with
    • A lower risk of lethal prostate cancer (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.71)
    • A lower risk of all-cause mortality (HR = 0.74)
  • No other fats were associated with lethal prostate cancer.
  • Replacing 5 percent of energy from carbohydrate with saturated fats was associted with a higher risk of all-cause mortality (HR = 1.30).
  • Replacing 1 percent of energy from carobohydrate with trans fats after diagnosis was associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality (HR = 1.25).

According to a report on this study on the Reuters web site, Dr. Stephen Freedland of Duke University (who wrote an editorial commentary on this paper) told Reuters that:

A lot of doctors will simply say, ‘Cut out fat,’ after a prostate cancer diagnosis [but this study suggests that]  if you eat more fat, albeit the right kind of fat, … you’re less likely to die of not only prostate cancer, but really of any cause, which really flies in the face of this ‘low-fat, low-fat, low-fat’ mantra that we’ve been told for decades now.

There has certainly been a significant increase in data in recent years suggesting that it is the type of fat that we eat that affects our risk for mortality, with fats in things like olive oil and certain types of nuts being more beneficial (or at least less harmful) than animal fats. And this is probably true for men who have never been diagnosed with prostate cancer at all, too!

2 Responses

  1. As an 11-year advanced prostate cancer survivor who switched to a plant-based diet 10 years ago, I am delighted to see more and more research that supports a plant-based diet as an adjunct to conventional therapies for prevention and treatment of prostate cancer.

  2. Similar Swedish study on carbs:

    “Results from this large study with high-validity dietary data suggest that a high intake of refined carbohydrates may be associated with increased risk of prostate cancer. However we observed no significant associations with high-risk prostate cancer, and not all foods that are typically high in refined carbohydrates were associated with prostate cancer.”

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