Cancer With Veggies
A new study reports that a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole
grains and beans, coupled with exercise and meditation, can help
slow, stop, or even reverse prostate cancer for men in the early
stages of the disease. Dr. Dean Ornish, a clinical professor of
medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, led the
study. Ornish, who is best known for his support of low-fat diets
in reversing heart disease, is now contending that diet changes
could also help reverse prostate cancer.
A group of men in Ornish's study underwent drastic diet and
lifestyle changes, then saw reduced levels after three months
of a blood marker for the disease. The marker, known as prostate
specific antigens or PSA, is a protein produced by the prostate
gland. High levels in a man's bloodstream can indicate prostate
disorders, including non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate
or prostate cancer.
Participating in Ornish's study required quite a change of menu
for men who like high-fat foods like cheeseburgers and fries.
The Ornish diet is extremely low-fat, with just 10 percent of
the participants' nutritional intake coming from fat, according
to the author of Eat More, Weigh Less, who presented his
findings over the weekend at a conference on alternative therapies
held at Harvard University.
"It is a vegan diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans,
and soy products instead of dairy," Ornish told ABCNEWS' Good
Morning America. "They exercised three hours a week and they
did an hour of meditation or other stress-management techniques
every day. They also took part in a weekly support group."
No Harm in Diet Changes
Since patients in the study had already opted to "watch and
wait," rather than undergo standard treatments like surgery and
radiation, there is no harm to Ornish's regimen, ABCNEWS' Dr.
Tim Johnson said.
"In such a group, there's nothing to lose and possibly something
to gain," Johnson said. "I say 'possibly' because it's too early
to tell after just one year of follow-up. The key will be over
whether longer follow-up there is a survival difference in the
two groups," he said.
Still, Johnson warned that patients who need radiation or surgery
should not interpret the study as a sign that they can simply
diet and exercise their way to health, when that may not be the
"This is not a replacement for traditional therapy when that's
indicated or a replacement for regular PSA screening to detect
early prostate cancer," Johnson added.
Are Results Significant Enough?
Every year, nearly 200,000 American men are diagnosed with prostate
cancer, and the disease kills 30,000 men annually. Those who survive
face difficult treatment choices: either surgery or radiation,
strategies that do not always work, and can cause impotence and
Ornish's study looked at 84 men who were in the early stages
of prostate cancer. None had elected to treat the disease with
surgery or radiation. Half of them did not make any diet or lifestyle
changes, while the other half adopted a low-fat diet and started
At three months, researchers measured the subjects' PSAs, which
will be measured again after one year. In just three months, the
group with the low-fat diet and exercise changes saw their PSA's
drop 6.5 percent, Ornish said. Those in the group who stuck closest
to the diet and exercise regimen saw their PSA levels drop 9 percent.
After three months, the group that did not make the diet and
lifestyle changes had higher levels of the blood marker, suggesting
that the disease progressed.
Many oncologists say that a decrease in PSAs of anything less
than 50 percent is insignificant. But Ornish maintains it is statistically
significant, adding that patients don't need the PSA to go down,
but do need it to stop from going up.
"If diet and lifestyle can not only stop it from getting worse,
but reverse progress of the disease, there are certainly implications
that this may help prevent prostate cancer," Ornish said. The
findings may have implications for the treatment of breast cancer,
too, he said.
The subjects will continue to be studied over four years to
see how they fare, Ornish said. Future studies will look at how
the program works in preventing recurrence in those who have been
treated, and whether it works in preventing primary prostate cancer,
in addition to reducing high PSAs.
Ornish said he does not encourage patients to use his regimen
instead of conventional treatment, but says they should discuss
the matter with their doctors. Even if they decide to go with
conventional treatment, however, he said they may want to consider
his program as an adjunct.
Reference Source 104