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What Should I Eat? Should I Go Low Carb? But I Like My Bread!

As a Physical Therapist, I often counsel my patients on many aspects of healthy living and I strongly believe that the food you eat can make a really significant impact on recovery and wellbeing. A 2015 review in BMC Medicine reviewed the currently available research on Nutrition, Dietary Interventions, and Prostate Cancer and I thought I would provide a review of their findings as a starting point for discussing how food can impact your life with cancer.

Foods we eat impact other foods we eat

One key point as we begin to study how nutrition plays a role in care is that we must recognize that the foods you eat will impact other foods you eat, so a diet that is high in one thing (for example fat) will likely be low in others (protein) simply because of calorie consumption. If your hunger becomes satisfied with eating high fat, you will eat less protein. Your body needs protein too!

Understanding this fact helps us to know that although these studies are incredibly important for making good choices, it is important to read health claims about food with a “grain of salt”. Any source that says that “Science discovers that a high fat (protein or whatever) diet cures men of baldness” must be really reviewed before anyone goes and trades in their apples for steaks for every meal.

What about carbohydrates?

Let’s start by looking at carbohydrates. What is a carb? Well, we know that a lot of people are slashing carbs from their diets in an effort to “get healthy”. But whoa!! Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for us. Carbohydrates are found in foods such as starchy vegetables, grains, rice, breads, and cereals. The body breaks down (or converts) most carbohydrates into the sugar glucose, which is absorbed into the bloodstream. This sugar gives you energy.

Why is this food considered bad? Well, not all carbs are the same. There are unhealthier versions such as include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease.

Better carb choices include unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans -- all promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and important phytonutrients.

Benefits of a lower, healthy carb diet

Now on to what current science tells us about carbs and prostate cancer. The 2015 study I was reviewing reported that some mouse studies showed that a low carb diet in animals SLOWED cancer growth. A human study looking at high intake of the unhealthier version of carbs demonstrated a link between HIGHER RISK of prostate cancer and this type of diet.

Ok -- so these 2 studies show a positive benefit of low carb/healthy carb diets. Let’s look at even more recent research.

A 2019 study in Current Developments in Nutrition had the following conclusion:

Feeding mice a low GI diet delayed PC growth and decreased serum insulin, IGF1, and IGF1: IGFBP3 ratios vs. a high GI diet. These data suggest carbohydrate quality is important for PC growth. Whether a low-carbohydrate and low GI diet would have additive benefits remains to be tested.2

Again, this is telling us that a diet with high quality carbs may be beneficial.

When it comes to carbs and cancer

At this point, I hope you see the trend. There are actually more studies I could list but the bottom line when it comes to carbs and prostate cancer...

  • Eat healthier versions of carbohydrates -- whole grain, fruits, and vegetables
  • Avoid processed white breads, white pastas, simple sugars (candy, cookies), and highly processed foods (or foods with long lists on their labels)

In this fight against prostate cancer, we want to employ every method possible to live our best lives and nutrition is one way to reach this goal! This will be my first in a series of articles to help you have the information you need to make good food choices.

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