Tomatoes and plants and eating well to limit risk

New data just published (and associated with the ProtecT trial in the UK) has again suggested the value of tomatoes in the diet as a way to lower risk for prostate cancer — presumably because of the high levels of lycopene in tomatoes.

According to the paper by Er et al., “men who ate more than 10 servings a week of tomatoes reduced their risk for prostate cancer by 18 percent” based on data about the the diets and lifestyles of 1,806 prostate cancer patients between the ages of 50 and 69 as compared to the diets and lifestyles of 12,005 men who did not have prostate cancer.

Other key findings from this study include:

  • The development of a prostate cancer dietary index based on intake of three dietary components (selenium, calcium and foods rich in lycopene) that have been linked to risk for prostate cancer.
  • The fact that an optimal prostate cancer dietary index score (based on the above dietary index) was associated with decreased risk of prostate cancer.
  • The fact that greater intake of plant-based foods also lowered risk for prostate cancer.

These data all come from a cohort of the men being evaluated for risk of prostate cancer and those among them who were actually enrolled into the ProtecT trial. There is also a media release about these findings from the research team at the University of Bristol.

Although Er and her colleagues also looked at the recommendations about physical activity, diet, and body weight for cancer prevention published by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), they found no indications that these issues affected risk for prostate cancer (but they may well impact risk for other forms of cancer).

What’s the bottom line here? If you want to minimize your risk for a diagnosis of prostate cancer, a diet that is high in plant-based products (and tomato-based products in particular) and relatively low in red meat, dairy products, and carbohydrates is going to be a good idea … but being physically active and keeping your body mass index down in the recommended range for your height isn’t going to be a bad idea either, because those two things will help to prevent a whole bunch of other health risks anyway. Some of those other health risks are a great deal more common than prostate cancer — and are at least as serious.

And one other thing … Taking supplements is no real substitute for a healthy diet and exercise! Supplements may be useful for some people … but having a healthy diet that make sure you don’t need those supplements is a much better idea as a lifetime goal.

5 Responses

  1. Were calcium and selenium pro cancer growth?

  2. Doug:

    Calcium and selenium levels in individual patients were not used in this study as levels over time against which risk was assessed. The study used calcium and selenium levels found in certain types of food as surrogates for levels in patients, and those calcium and selenium levels were then “built in” to the prostate cancer dietary risk index. To that extent, eating foods known to provide regular and accepted dietary intake of calcium and selenium appear to have favored a lower risk for diagnosis of prostate cancer, but only as components of all the elements used to establish the index and not on their own.

  3. I like these results better: “Eating tomato sauce twice a week could reduce the risk of men developing prostate cancer by up to a third.” This comes from a newspaper article in the UK released right after an [American] study quoted in the article.

    The aryticle goes on further to state thatr if you eat ketchup twice a week, you actually cut your risk by 36%.

    The Brits can’t make up their minds; is the difference between these two results the reference to tomato sauce only in this second article? We know that tomato is the only vegetable, well scientifically it is a fruit, that increases its nutritional value after processing. So, maybe, processed tomatoes are better yet for the cancer story.

    Question now is, since you most likely eat ketchup with French fries, which are as popular in the UK as they are over here, will you decrease your risk even further if you don’t eat the fries?

    I am not trying to be funny with these comments. Certainly the analysis above is right on the mark. Nutrition will certainly contribute to lowering
    the risk for prostate cancer and may just slow down the progression of prostate cancer after recurrence.

  4. Dear Wolfram:

    Since our friends at The Daily Mail don’t tell us where or when the article by Dr. Giovannuci and his colleagues at Harvard was published (and they have published many articles on this topic over the past 15 years or so), unfortunately it is impossible to make any assessment of the relative merits of the two papers. However, eating large quantities of French fries on a regular basis is not exactly good for one’s cardiovascular health, regardless of any impact on prostate cancer.

  5. I often wonder how consuming tomatoes impacts recurrence?

    At this time of year, it is criminal to cook home-grown tomatoes — unless we are blessed in abundance, and I for one am not. So, I just make sure there is a little fat with the tomato, since that purportedly liberates the lycopene; olive oil is my choice, along with … well I guess this is not the place to provide the recipe for a great summer tomato salad. ;<)) !!

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