Age, race, family history—these things affect men’s chances of getting prostate cancer…and their chances of dying from the disease. And there’s nothing men can do to change those risk factors. But hang on—because there is a very simple step that prostate cancer patients can take to boost their odds of beating the disease. In fact, this simple step is linked to a markedly lower risk of dying not only from prostate cancer, but also from other causes.

The secret, according to a new study, lies in replacing a modest portion of the carbohydrates in your diet with a particular type of fat—yes, fat. Here’s why…


The new study drew on data from the large-scale Health Professionals Follow-Up Study that began in 1986, when 51,529 men ages 40 to 75 completed food questionnaires indicating how much of approximately 130 different foods they typically consumed. The men repeated the food questionnaires every four years…and also periodically provided updated information about their medical histories and lifestyles.

All the men were cancer-free at the start of the study…but between the years 1986 and 2010, nonmetastatic prostate cancer was diagnosed in 4,577 of them. The researchers adjusted for various risk factors, such as levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), age, total calories consumed and time since diagnosis. Then they looked specifically at how the types of fats these patients consumed after their prostate cancer diagnoses might have affected their odds of dying from prostate cancer or from other causes during the follow-up period. The findings were quite enlightening. Here’s what they discovered about…


Vegetable fat and lethal prostate cancer. For the sake of analysis, researchers divided the men into five groups or quintiles based on the overall amount of vegetable fat (including fat from nuts) they consumed. Those who ate the most vegetable fat (the highest quintile) after their cancer diagnoses had a 36% lower risk of dying from prostate cancer than those who ate the least vegetable fat (the lowest quintile).


The changes from precancer diet to postcancer diet didn’t have to be huge to be associated with significant benefits. For instance, among men who replaced just 10% of their carbohydrate calories with vegetable fat calories, the researchers saw a 29% reduction in risk for lethal prostate cancer.


Vegetable fat and all-cause mortality. Prostate cancer patients who consumed the most vegetable fat after their diagnoses had a 35% lower risk of dying from any cause during the study follow-up period. Again, making relatively modest dietary changes after the cancer diagnosis was linked to significant reductions in risk. For instance, replacing 10% of carb calories with vegetable fat calories was associated with a 26% lower risk of dying from any cause…while replacing 10% of animal fat (for instance, from red meat) with vegetable fat was associated with a 34% lower risk of dying from any cause.



Saturated and trans fats. Among men who increased their intake of these types of fats after their cancer diagnoses—even slightly—the researchers saw an increase in mortality risk. For example, replacing 5% of carb calories with saturated fat (found in red meat) was linked to a 30% increase in the risk of dying from any cause…while replacing just 1% of carb calories with trans fat (found in processed foods) was associated with a 25% increase in the risk of dying from any cause.



Omega fatty acids. Interestingly, given the hot debate over the role of omega fatty acids in prostate cancer risk, the amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids consumed were not associated with any increase or decrease in risk for lethal prostate cancer or for dying from any cause.



What explains the findings? The researchers noted that consumption of vegetable oils and nut oils provides antioxidants and reduces circulating insulin, LDL cholesterol, inflammatory markers and markers of oxidative stress—all of which may have beneficial effects on prostate cancer progression.

Prostate cancer patients: Speak with a registered dietitian about specific ways to increase your intake of healthful vegetable oils and reduce consumption of carbohydrates, saturated fat and trans fat…so you can improve your chances of living longer.