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Plant-based diet tied to improved sexual health in men with cancer

Plant-based diet benefits men with prostate cancer, particularly in improving sexual and urinary health as well as hormonal balance. . (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Recent research led by the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has highlighted the beneficial effects of a plant-based diet on men with prostate cancer, particularly in improving sexual and urinary health as well as hormonal balance.

This study, involving over 3,500 men, showcases a significant stride towards enhancing quality of life post-treatment for prostate cancer, a disease that ranks among the most prevalent and lethal cancers in American males, as noted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The investigation segmented participants into quintiles based on their dietary habits, contrasting plant-based food intake against animal-based consumption.

The findings were revelatory: those in the top quintile for plant-based diet consumption experienced 8% to 11% higher sexual function scores and up to 14% better urinary health scores than their counterparts in the bottom quintile. Moreover, this group also reported up to 13% improvement in hormonal health indicators, such as energy levels, mood, and the occurrence of hot flashes.


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Dr. Stacy Loeb, the study's lead author and a professor in the Departments of Urology and Population Health at NYU Langone Health, emphasized the simplicity of dietary adjustments for patients seeking to mitigate the adverse effects of common prostate cancer therapies.

"Adding more fruits and vegetables to their diet, while reducing meat and dairy, is a simple step that patients can take," she stated, offering a glimmer of hope for those grappling with the side effects of surgery, radiation, and other treatments.


This study, published in the journal Cancer, builds upon previous research that suggested a plant-based diet could not only reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer but also diminish the likelihood of sexual dysfunction in general. However, this recent analysis is particularly noteworthy for being one of the first to correlate dietary habits with improved urinary health in prostate cancer patients.

Higher Plant-Based Diet Index was associated with improved scores for sexual function (fully adjusted: Diff -0.36, p = 0.02), urinary irritation/obstruction (fully adjusted: Diff -0.21, p = 0.01), and urinary incontinence (fully adjusted: Diff -0.26, p = 0.03) among men with prostate cancer. (CREDIT: UroToday)

The research utilized data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, an extensive and ongoing project initiated in 1986 under the auspices of the Harvard Chan School. This project collates dietary information from over 50,000 health professionals, including dentists, pharmacists, and veterinarians, to examine the impact of nutrition on cancer, heart disease, and other serious health outcomes.


Participants reported their dietary habits and health issues biennially, allowing the team to adjust for variables such as weight, physical activity, and pre-existing conditions like diabetes in their analysis.

Interestingly, the benefits of a plant-based diet were consistent across different demographics and lifestyle backgrounds, underscoring the universal advantages of such dietary choices. The researchers particularly highlighted the role of dietary fiber from plants in promoting better bowel function, further adding to the myriad health benefits of a plant-centric diet.

Dr. Loeb's research also challenges conventional beliefs regarding meat consumption and male sexual health, suggesting that a diet rich in plants may actually be more beneficial. However, she notes the study's limitation in its predominantly White, healthcare professional demographic, indicating plans for future research to encompass a broader and more diverse population, including those at more advanced stages of the disease.


This pioneering study not only reinforces the health and environmental merits of reducing animal product consumption but also opens new avenues for dietary interventions in managing and mitigating prostate cancer treatment side effects.

Abstract graphic showing male prostate cancer. (CREDIT: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)

With its clear indication that a plant-based diet can significantly improve the lives of men with prostate cancer, it sets a foundation for further exploration and potentially transformative dietary guidelines for patients worldwide.


Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

According to the Mayo Clinic, prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages, however, prostate cancer that's more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Trouble urinating

  • Decreased force in the stream of urine

  • Blood in the urine

  • Blood in the semen

  • Bone pain

  • Losing weight without trying

  • Erectile dysfunction

For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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