A high intake of saturated fats, which are mainly found in foods of animal origin, stimulates the progression of prostate cancer cells.
We already know that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats (particularly omega-3 monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids) reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature mortality. This protection is due to the opposing effects of these two types of dietary fat on LDL cholesterol levels. It is an important risk factor for heart attack and stroke. While saturated fats increase the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood, unsaturated fats lower the levels of this form of cholesterol.
Saturated Fat: Rise in Cholesterol and Cancer
Most saturated fats come from foods of animal origin: meat, eggs, dairy products. While unsaturated fats are mainly found in plants: vegetable oils, nuts, certain seeds. Therefore, an easy way to achieve a good balance between your intake of saturated and unsaturated fats is to increase your dietary intake of plants while reducing your consumption of animal products.
The negative health effects of saturated fat aren’t just limited to raising LDL cholesterol levels. Several studies have shown that these fats also have pro-inflammatory effects. They would contribute to the development of certain serious pathologies such as insulin resistance or the progression of certain cancers in the form of metastases.
Stimulate or block the progression of prostate cancer
A recent study also suggests a link between saturated fat and cancer progression. Using a mouse model that expresses the oncogene MYC and is genetically predisposed to developing prostate cancer, these researchers observed that a diet rich in saturated fat was associated with major changes in prostate cell metabolism. This led to the activation of several genes involved in tumor growth. Animals fed saturated fat had larger tumors than those fed regular diet. This strongly suggests that these saturated fat-activated genes are involved in prostate cancer progression.
Interestingly, this activation is reversible. Because reducing saturated fat intake reverses the increase in gene expression and reverses tumor progression. A very important point of the study is that this genetic signature, which is linked to a high intake of saturated fat, is also observed in patients with prostate cancer. The researchers used data on saturated fat consumption collected as part of epidemiological studies (Health Professionals Follow-up Study and Physicians’ Health Study). They found that prostate cancer patients who had the greatest gene activation in their cancer were four times more likely to die from their disease.
However, this increase is not observed for unsaturated fatty acids (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). This confirms that it is saturated fat-induced genetic activation that is responsible for tumor progression.
By the age of 40, 1/3 of men already have microtumors in the prostate
Reducing your dietary intake of saturated fat may slow the progression of prostate cancer. But also reduce the risk of mortality associated with advanced forms of this disease. This is an important discovery. Because from the age of 40, a third of men already have microscopic tumors in the prostate. They therefore have a very high risk of developing cancer of this organ in the following decades.
Favor unsaturated fats of vegetable origin while limiting animal fats. This could therefore allow these prostate microtumors to remain in a dormant state. This dietary orientation is a promising way to reduce the high incidence of prostate cancer. With the added bonus of better cardiovascular health!
Boren J et al. Low-density lipoproteins cause atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease: pathophysiological, genetic, and therapeutic insights: a consensus statement from the Consensus Panel of the European Atherosclerosis Society. EUR. Heart J. February 2020.
Labbé DP et al. A high-fat diet promotes prostate cancer progression by rewiring the metabolome and boosting the MYC program. nat. Spread. 2019; 10:4358.
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