Cooking with Olive Oil: Lose Weight, Decrease Risk for Prostate Cancer Progression

Kristie L. Kahl

Data from a pilot study showed an added benefit from the incorporation of extra virgin olive oil into the diets of men with low-risk prostate cancer. As a result, this dietary modification could lead to weight loss, while also helping the body to absorb compounds with anticancer properties.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) recommends for men to incorporate weight loss into their treatment plans to reduce risk for recurrence, metastases and mortality. Being overweight can cause insulin resistance, which means “you are making insulin, but it is not working as it should, or you are not storing nutrients like glucose, so your pancreas makes more insulin,” lead study author Mary M. Flynn, Ph.D., RN, LDN, a nutritionist at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, said in an interview with CURE.

In particular, PCF calls for the consumption of deep color fruits and vegetables that are high in carotenoid content and glucosinolate — natural compounds shown to have powerful cancer fighting ability when there are sufficient levels in the blood, Flynn explained. However, this recommendation does not include a healthy fat that should be used to prepare the vegetables, which in turn, could maximize the absorption of these natural compounds.

“I think cancer organizations have done a good job getting people to know that colorful vegetables and fruit are healthy and that they are cancer protective. But what they leave out is critical,” said Flynn. “The carotenoids need dietary fat to be absorbed so if you are eating your colorful vegetables without fat, you are not getting into your body what will fight the cancer.”

Researchers from Miriam Hospital’s department of medicine asked 18 participants to follow a plant-based, extra virgin olive oil diet or the PCF-recommended diet for eight weeks. Following the eight-week regimen, participants selected one of the diets to consume for an additional 6 months.

The PCF diet included nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day with an emphasis on colorful fruits and vegetables. While on the plant-based diet, participants had a daily goal of cooking with three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

In the study, published in the Journal of Cancer Therapy, weight loss appeared comparable between both diets after eight weeks. However, the olive oil diet resulted in lower insulin, glucose and insulin resistance.

Following the initial eight weeks, 13 of the 18 participants chose the olive oil diet for the remaining six months of follow-up. During this time, weight loss and lab improvements were maintained.

“I would very much like to see the PCF guidelines recommend daily use of extra virgin olive oil,” said Flynn. “The oil itself would provide health benefits and if they recommend cooking vegetables into olive oil that would go a long [way] towards decreasing cancer risk and progression.”
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