Switching to a healthy diet rich in fish and nuts could be the difference between living or dying for men prone to to prostate cancer, new US research indicates. A study published in the online edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that omega-3 fatty acids found in the foods may improve the prognosis for men with a genetic predisposition to the condition. Working with mice genetically engineered to develop prostate tumors, scientists fed some of the mice a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids from birth.
These mice had fewer tumors and a longer life span than those not fed the diet. Survival was 60 percent in mice fed a high omega-3 diet, 10 percent in mice on a low omega-3 diet and zero percent in mice fed a diet high in omega-6, a different type of polyunsaturated fatty acid found in vegetable oils.
In normal mice not engineered for prostate cancer, all survived regardless of diet, according to the study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold water fish such as salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines and mackerel, and fish oil such as cod liver oil. English walnuts and flaxseeds also contain omega-3s.
"This study clearly shows that diet can tip the balance toward a good or bad outcome," said Yong Q. Chen, senior researcher at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "It's possible that a change in diet could mean the difference between dying from the disease and surviving with it." Taking a recommended daily dose of omega-3s can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure slightly, previous studies have shown.
High doses may have a harmful effect, such as excess bleeding, according to the National Institutes of Health. Prostate cancer is among the leading causes of cancer death in men.