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More benefits of a plant-based diet: Better sexual and urinary function

After a prostate cancer diagnosis, patients often wonder what they can do to reduce the chance of their cancer worsening or recurring, to improve their recovery after treatment, or simply to feel better and have more energy. Previous research has demonstrated that plant-based diets may reduce the risk of developing certain types of prostate cancer or of dying from prostate cancer.

Now, a new study suggests that following such a diet after diagnosis may also improve patients’ quality of life. This refers to essential aspects of living such as urinary, sexual, and bowel function. At the 2023 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting held earlier this month, urologist Stacy Loeb, MD, MSc, PhD (hon) of NYU Langone School of Medicine presented results based on data from approximately 3,500 patients diagnosed with localized prostate cancer.

Each patient completed a series of food frequency questionnaires. Dr. Loeb and team computed an “overall plant-based diet index” score and a “healthful plant-based diet index” score for each participant(see Sidebar). Participants also completed questionnaires on quality of life aspects: urinary leakage, urinary irritation, sexual function, bowel function, and vitality (depression, lack of energy, hot flashes).

The researchers correlated each patient’s diet scores with their quality-of-life-scores. A higher overall plant-based diet score was linked to modestly better sexual function, urinary irritation/obstruction, and urinary incontinence. A higher healthy plant-based diet score was also linked to better sexual function, as well as better bowel function and measures of vitality. This study does not confirm cause and effect, that is, it does not prove that eating more plant-based foods is responsible for improved function. However, the analysis did account for other factors that could affect the relationship between diet and body functions, such as age, tumor features, body mass index, exercise, total calories, diabetes, and smoking.

The results of this study provide additional evidence of the potential benefits of consuming more plant-based foods after a prostate cancer diagnosis. Read more on UroToday.

What this means for patients: If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer and are considering making changes in your health habits, reducing meat intake, and eating more whole grains, brightly colored veggies, and plant-based proteins like nuts and soy may be a good place to start, for many reasons. Consult your doctor or a nutritionist about any major dietary changes. Download PCF’s wellness guide, The Science of Living Well, Beyond Cancer, for more tips on nutrition, exercise, and rest.

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