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Saturated fats – Are they dangerous for prostate cancer?

Long Story Short

  • Retrospective study of 1854 male patients between 40-79 with a diagnosis of prostate cancer [1]
  • A high saturated fat diet was associated with increased aggressive prostate cancer (CaP).
  • Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) was inversely associated with CaP aggressiveness (*statistically insignificant).
  • Those with more aggressive CaP ate more calories, more fat and more cholesterol.
  • Men with highly aggressive CaP were more likely to be current smokers and obese.
  • Taking a statin slightly helped those with lower fat intake but not those with high fat intake.

Fat has been in the news a lot lately, with the recent exposure showing fat was falsely accused of being the cause of heart disease. Fat takes a punch again, as a large retrospective study published in Prostate Cancer Prostatic Disease showed a high saturated diet was associated with increasing the aggressiveness of prostate cancer. This was a large study using a food frequency questionnaire of almost more than 1800 men where they recorded their diet history for 12 months prior to their CaP diagnosis.

After a statistical analysis, what they found was that men with who ate more saturated fat increased their CaP aggressiveness. PUFAs like fish oil, walnut oil, olive oil, were inversely correlated (although not statistically significant) with CaP aggressiveness; possible suggesting more PUFAs means less aggressive CaP. Yet they didn’t say the source of the PUFA because that group also includes canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, peanut oil… And lastly they found statins helped reduce the aggressiveness in men with a lower intakes of saturated fat, but statins didn’t help in those who consumed the most saturated fat.

Does this mean saturated fats are bad for prostate cancer?

It isn’t that simple. This study does not prove saturated fats cause prostate cancer, but it does show that saturated fats may lead to more aggressive prostate cancer.

A few things I must point out:

1. This was a food questionnaire that patients had to estimate how much they ate a food over the past 12 months. From a clinical perspective even 48 hour recall is poorly accurate from patients. This study did its best with the best questionnaire available but that still leads me to believe that it may not be fully accurate.

2. They didn’t say the sources of the saturated fat. Grass fed beef, lamb, wild game meat, ghee are very different from the saturated fat in conventionally grown beef and dairy. And for that fact they didn’t say if the fat came from meat, cheese, ice cream, etc. The same goes for the PUFAs.

3. Those who had more calories also had more aggressive CaP. This can’t be ignored and perhaps its not just the fat but the excess calories as well contributing to the inflammation.

4. We don’t know what the participants diets. Given the food questionnaire was adjusted to add southern US foods, I have to assume it was the typical Standard American Diet (SAD).

The authors do a great job at acknowledging the possibility of saturated fats creating a pro-inflammatory state. We know prostate cancer, and mostly all cancers, flourish in a pro-inflammatory environment. Yet from a functional standpoint we need to understand that it is not just the fats, but its the fats with the sugars that create issues, along with the types of fats.  A high fat low carb diet certainly will impact inflammation differently than a high fat high carb diet, as we know higher glycemic diets (high sugar/starch/carb) will increase the risk of prostate cancer [2].

Bottom Line

In the end men with prostate cancer or a family history need to realize their food intake impacts their health. Eating a ton of saturated fats with the SAD (standard american diet) will likely lead to other conditions such as diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, that are associated with prostate cancer and most cancers [3]. This study catches my attention because it exposed aggressive prostate cancer, and that is the type of prostate cancer that is most alarming.

I am NOT saying fats are bad, what I am saying is when saturated fats are eaten with junk foods they promote more metabolic dysfunction, meaning their negative effects are multiplied! In fact, I insist on eating healthy fats from grass fed beef, lamb, eggs, salmon, nuts/seeds without the sugary starches.

Quality matters.

 

References:

  1. Allott EH, Arab L, Su LJ, et al. Saturated fat intake and prostate cancer aggressiveness: results from the population-based North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate Cancer Project [published online September 6, 2016]. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. doi: 10.1038/pcan.2016.39.
  2. Hu J, La Vecchia C, Augustin LS, Negri E, de Groh M, Morrison H, Mery L Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiology Research Group (2013) Glycemic index, glycemic load and cancer riskAnn Oncol24(1): 245–251.
  3. Bimal Bhindi, Jennifer Locke, Shabbir M.H. Alibhai, et al. Dissecting the Association Between Metabolic Syndrome and Prostate Cancer Risk: Analysis of a Large Clinical Cohort, European Urology, Volume 67, Issue 1, January 2015, Pages 64-70, ISSN 0302-2838, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eururo.2014.01.040.

 

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