On October 25, UCLA researchers published a study in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, which reported that a low-fat diet with fish oil supplements slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells. Researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center reported that a low-fat diet with fish oil supplements eaten for four to six weeks prior to prostate removal slowed down the growth of prostate cancer cells in human prostate cancer tissue compared to a traditional, high-fat Western diet. The short-term study also found that the men on the low-fat, fish oil supplement diet were able to change the composition of their cell membranes in both the healthy cells and the cancer cells in the prostate. They had increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and decreased levels of omega-6 fatty acids from corn oil in the cell membranes, which may directly affect the biology of the cells; however, further studies are needed, noted first author Dr. William Aronson.
The researchers also found that blood obtained from patients after the low-fat, fish oil diet program slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells in a test tube as compared to blood from men on the Western diet, which did not slow cancer growth. The study, which evaluated blood samples before and after the diet commenced and examined tissue from the removed prostate, validated previous studies by Aronson and others done on cell lines and in animal models. Dr. Aronson said the study using human blood and tissue also proved that the changes prompted by what the men were eating were clearly evident in their prostate tissue: the “treatment” was indeed reaching the targeted organ because of the changes in the prostate cell membrane’s fatty acid composition.
Diet studies often are difficult to evaluate because getting patients to comply with dietary changes can be challenging. However, the food eaten by men in both arms of this study was precisely controlled, Dr. Aronson said. The meals were prepared by chefs in the UCLA Clinical Translational Research Center and delivered in bulk to study participants several times a week. Participants also met with a dietician, kept food diaries and were required to return uneaten food.
The low-fat diet consisted of 15% of calories from fat. Additionally, the men on this diet took five grams of fish oil per day in five capsules, three with breakfast and two with dinner, to provide fish oil omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce the incidence of heart disease and fight inflammation, and inflammation has been associated with certain cancers.
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