Harvard Study Finds Western Diet Increases Mortality Rates For Prostate Cancer Patients

Men eating lots of meat, refined grains, and dairy were more likely to have their cancers turn fatal.

The Western diet is defined—somewhat embarrassingly—as a diet high in red and processed meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy. So it should be no surprise that a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) sheds light on how damaging the diet really is.

The study found that men diagnosed with prostate cancer had much higher mortality rates, both cancer-related and in general, when they ate a Western diet versus a “prudent” diet heavy in produce, fish, legumes, and whole grains. Led by HSPH nutrition and epidemiology professor Jorge Chavarro, the researchers followed men for more than a decade after their cancer diagnoses and found that those following the Western diet had cancer-related mortality rates 2.5 times higher than those who stayed away from those foods. General mortality rates were 67 percent higher for men on the Western diet, while men on the prudent diet had a 36 percent lower mortality risk overall.

These findings are especially important, Chavarro says in an announcement, because lifestyle advice for men with prostate cancer is severely lacking:

“There is currently very little evidence to counsel men living with prostate cancer on how they can modify their lifestyle to improve survival. Our results suggest that a heart-healthy diet may benefit these men by specifically reducing their chances of dying of prostate cancer.”

Notably, all the participants studied were male physicians with a prostate cancer diagnosis and most were white, meaning the test will need to be repeated within other demographics to be applied broadly. Still, if you want yet another reason to change up your diet, this seems like as good an excuse as any. Research says that the Mediterranean diet is an excellent choice.