Can a plant-based diet provide additional protection of developing prostate cancer?

Should men eat more plant-based foods and forego animal-based foods to prevent prostate cancer? This question has been asked by researchers for decades. Of course, even if the evidence were to conclusively point to a solid “yes,” the likelihood of men adopting this way of eating and foregoing animal-based foods, is doubtful. 

What has been well-established by research is that adopting a plant-based diet can be beneficial in lowering the incidence of heart disease and diabetes. However, the efficacy of this dietary pattern in preventing prostate cancer, the most prevalent cancer in men, has not been established as a panacea. 

Although recent investigations have provided insights into the role of diet in disease prevention, no definitive evidence exists to support the claim that plant-based diets eliminate the risk of prostate cancer. Nonetheless, the growing body of scientific literature has suggested that consuming plant-based diets may lower the incidence of prostate cancer and potentially decelerate its development.

What the science says

Plant-based diets have been studied extensively, with the most popular being Mediterranean, MIND, and DASH. These diets are similar and prioritize the consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and olive oil. They also recommend reducing the intake of red meat and processed foods. Plant-based diets can include different eating patterns, such as vegetarian, vegan, and pescatarian (which involves adding seafood to an otherwise vegetarian diet). Therefore, what does the current scientific research suggest about plant-based diets and their impact on prostate cancer?

Let’s begin with the overall risk

There is compelling evidence that adopting a plant-based diet can possibly lower the risk of developing cancer. Studies focused on prostate cancer have also shown promising results. For example, a study published in the 2022 edition of BMC Medicine involving over 409,000 individuals revealed that vegetarians and pescatarians had a 43% lower risk of prostate cancer over a decade in comparison to meat eaters.

If you have prostate cancer, adopting a plant-based diet may help to slow down its growth. A 2021 study in the Urology Times journal monitored the daily diets of 410 men with localized prostate cancer for three years. The study found that those who consumed more fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and fish were less likely to experience cancer growth that would require treatment.

As part of the ongoing CaPSURE Diet and Lifestyle Study, a recent analysis was conducted to research any link that exists between diet and prostate cancer. The study included approximately 2,000 men with early- to mid-grade prostate cancer, with an average age of 72. Participants periodically completed questionnaires about their consumption of 140 different foods. After about 7.5 years, the study found that individuals with diets rich in plant foods had a 52% less chance of prostate cancer progression and a 53% lower risk of recurrence than those who consumed the lowest amount of plant foods.

However, other research has not been as supportive. For instance, a 2020 study in JAMA found that increasing vegetable intake did not lower show any less of a risk of prostate cancer progression in men on active surveillance.

Foods that fight Cancer

Many contradictions can arise regarding diet-related research, as most studies can only show an association rather than a cause-and-effect relationship. While there is strong observational evidence in favor of plant-based diets, it is difficult to determine which specific foods or combinations are better than others, or what amounts are ideal for managing prostate cancer.

Despite these challenges, researchers have found promising results when examining the effects of individual foods commonly found in plant-based diets on prostate cancer.

Extensive studies have proven that men who consume moderate to high amounts of fish have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer or dying from it compared to those who do not consume fish. The high omega-3 fatty acids present in fish are known to combat inflammation and are often cited as protective benefits. Additionally, studies have found that carotenoids, compounds that occur naturally in certain plants, have antioxidant properties that help protect the body against unstable molecules that can cause damage to DNA, which in turn leads to the formation of cancer cells.

Foods that may increase prostate cancer development 

It’s important to both eat the right foods and avoid not-so-healthy foods when it comes to prostate cancer prevention. A plant-based diet, which involves consuming fewer processed foods, high-fat red meat, and foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat, reduces the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. Additionally, by following this type of diet, fewer calories overall will be consumed, which can help in managing excess weight, another factor that has an association of being a higher risk for developing prostate cancer.


Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911. 


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