The dangerous dietary fat behind rising prostate cancer rates

Last year, the National Cancer Institute delivered good news…

Cancer diagnoses and deaths went down again, continuing a promising trend that’s lasted for the past 20 years or so.

But there are certain cancers that bucked this trend — like prostate cancer.

Even though prostate cancer was on the decline for many years, rates have started to squirm up again. And unfortunately, it’s getting diagnosed at more advanced stages and popping up in younger men.

The question is… why?

Luckily, researchers from the University of Melbourne and Monash University think they know the answer…

Prostate cancer feeds on saturated fatty acids

Many years ago, researchers from the University of Melbourne and Monash University decided to undertake an in-depth look into why cancer grows. And guess what cancer they chose to focus on?

Prostate cancer.

Now, it’s well known that being overweight or obese raises the risk of prostate cancer. But through statistical analysis, researchers identified another factor that’s causing prostate cancer to become more aggressive and deadlier — saturated fatty acids.

Researchers found that men who ate lots of saturated fatty acids were more likely to get aggressive prostate cancer and less likely to survive the disease.

To see exactly how saturated fatty acids were contributing to prostate cancer in the body, researchers examined prostate cancer tissue and normal tissue. More specifically, they looked at what “fuel” these tissues used to grow. And here’s what they found…

Normal tissue preferred sugar as fuel. But prostate cancer tissue preferred saturated fatty acids. It absorbs these fatty acids quickly and efficiently, using it to increase tumor size.

Now, since prostate cancer cells absorb these fatty acids from a channel on the cell wall called a transporter, researchers were curious what would happen if they got rid of the transporter (and prevented prostate cancer cells from feeding on saturated fatty acids). Would it slow or stop tumor growth?

So, they tried it. And it did. Without these transporters available to deliver fatty acids to prostate cancer cells, cancer growth slowed by 30 to 50 percent.

Related: 12 natural prostate cancer killers

But researchers wanted to explore the connection between prostate cancer and saturated fatty acids even further, so they created an artificial prostate (a mass of prostate cells grown in a lab and clumped together to resemble the organ). They also created antibodies that targeted the transporter delivering fatty acids to prostate cancer cells and applied them to the artificial prostate.

These antibodies attacked the transporter, effectively blocking prostate cancers from feeding on saturated fatty acids. And as a result, the fake organ experienced a 90 percent reduction in cancer growth.

Trimming the fat that’s fueling prostate cancer

So, what does all this mean for men?

Although researchers didn’t delve into diet specifically, it may mean that it’s time to stop eating so much saturated fatty acids. Now, the tricky thing when you start slashing fat in your diet is distinguishing the “healthy” fats from the “unhealthy” fats.

Fat isn’t the health boogeyman it was a few decades ago. Not all fat is bad. In fact, your body needs fat to perform many essential bodily functions. The problem comes from eating too much of the wrong types of fat. And the first fat you need to strategically remove from your diet is trans-fat.

Trans fat is by far the most dangerous dietary fat. It’s produced through the process of hydrogenation. That’s where oils are turned into solids to prevent them from going bad. You’ll find hydrogenated in most processed foods, which is part of the reason it has such a long shelf life.

Trans-fats raise “bad” cholesterol levels and promote inflammation, which is why they’re tied to an increased risk of diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and, of course, cancer.

These unhealthy fats don’t do your body any good. So, my advice? Cut them out completely. But there are other sources of saturated fats that come with health benefits…

Grass-fed red meat, grass-fed dairy, and coconut oil all have health perks, so enjoy these sources of saturated fat in moderation if you have prostate cancer concerns. After all, the saying “too much of a good thing” exists for a reason. (Although, people on the ketogenic diet may not agree when it comes to healthy saturated fats).

If you’re looking for a healthy diet that keeps your prostate cancer risk down, the Mediterranean diet is a great choice. It takes a moderate approach to saturated fat consumption, allowing you a little of the healthy stuff without encouraging you to go overboard. It’s also been tied to a decreased risk of prostate cancer.

Sources:

  1. Prostate cancer: Starving out the enemy — MedicalXpress
  2. Suppressing fatty acid uptake has therapeutic effects in preclinical models of prostate cancerScience Translational Medicine
  3. U.S. Cancer Death Rate Down, But Prostate Cases Up</a > — WebMD
  4. Annual Report to the Nation 2018: National Cancer Statistics — National Cancer Institute
  5. A more complete Mediterranean diet may protect against aggressive prostate cancer — ScienceDaily
  6. The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between — Harvard Health Publishing
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.