What you eat and what you decide to do every day has an impact on your health. It’s not a surprise that a healthier lifestyle leads to a healthier life.
But even though we know this fact, it is not always easy to put it into practice. If your main focus is your prostate health, not all dietary and lifestyle changes will work.
So, what modifications can you adopt to favor your prostate? Is there one you won’t struggle to follow? The Mediterranean diet is not one of those new fad diets that promise a lot without delivering.
Instead, it is based on a cuisine tradition in the Mediterranean countries that turned out to be very beneficial. It is not hard to follow, and some people adopt a semi-Mediterranean diet without even knowing.
But what’s a Mediterranean diet? How is the Mediterranean diet useful for you and your prostate? What if you have prostate cancer? As you will see in this article, this type of diet is not hard to follow and gives you plenty of health benefits.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a type of cuisine common in some countries around the Mediterranean Sea. People who follow this type of diet are usually healthier than others. They typically have better cardiovascular health.
Such a difference in cardiovascular risk raised scientists’ attention, and they pointed at the Mediterranean diet as one of the main reasons. Unlike other weight-loss and fad diets, this one is easier to follow and maintain. It is engraved in many Mediterranean countries’ traditions and does not feel restrictive at all (1).
Foods in the traditional Mediterranean diet are ubiquitous in European countries. Due to the globalization of the food market, they are also available in America and other continents.
The traditional Mediterranean diet does not have pasta or refined foods. It doesn’t have foods with added sugars such as candies or pastries. There are no packaged or processed foods, and most of them are fresh and all-natural.
What we eat in the Mediterranean diet includes many fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish, and a relatively low intake of dairy and red meat. Legumes are also important, and the sources of fat are very healthy. They have unsaturated fatty acids instead of their saturated counterparts.
Two examples are olive oil and avocados. Other beneficial foods include almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, leafy greens, beans, lentils, blueberries, strawberries, and other fruits (2).
So, if you want to hold a Mediterranean diet, follow these simple steps:
- Stop eating processed foods, refined grains, packaged foods, and soda. Replace them with fresh foods
- As a healthy fat, give preference to olive oil, fish, and avocados
- Avoid milk and dairy, and reduce red meat consumption
- If you want to drink alcoholic drinks, consume red wine, but only moderately
- Avoid using too much salt. Use spices instead.
- Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables in each meal
What are the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet?
There’s a reason why this traditional cuisine became a healthy trend worldwide. Many people follow the Mediterranean diet to get at least one of the benefits listed below:
- Blood pressure control: Controlling your blood pressure can be challenging if you follow an occidental diet. They are filled with sodium, saturated fats, and other foods that increase your blood pressure.
The Mediterranean diet promotes a salt-free diet with many spices and several heart-healthy dishes. It brings about countless benefits to the cardiovascular system. One of them is reducing blood pressure levels, especially systolic blood pressure.
Even the habit of drinking red wine is beneficial for blood pressure levels. It also protects the body against cardiovascular damage and reduces cardiovascular disease risk.
We don’t need a tasteless diet to control blood pressure. All we need is turning our attention to the Mediterranean diet. You can see benefits even if you replace one meal a day with the Mediterranean protocol. Blood pressure reductions won’t be dramatic and can be lowered further if you exercise and live a healthier life (3).
- Blood fat management: Several studies consistently show that the Mediterranean diet improves blood fat control. The plasma lipid profile consists of two main components. They are cholesterol and triglycerides. Cholesterol is further subdivided into different parts, but we can narrow them into LDL and HDL.
The former is known as bad cholesterol, and the latter is termed good cholesterol. The Mediterranean diet is known to reduce your levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. In some studies, the Mediterranean diet may also increase the HDL part, which is very good. However, exercise is recommended if you want to make sure that HDL goes up and LDL goes down.
One of the components that promote a healthy lipid profile is unsaturated fats. This type of fat does not cause any cardiovascular problems. Quite the contrary, because they have anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy benefits (3).
- Diabetes control: The Mediterranean diet has many features in favor of diabetic patients. It is a flexible diet and not a rigid dietary pattern. It is enjoyable and can be used as a suitable lifestyle change.
The Mediterranean diet does not include refined sugar and added sugars. It can be applied for diabetic people according to the severity of their disease. In some patients, it will be appropriate to avoid cereals altogether. Others may include grains by only making sure they are whole-wheat cereal.
Glycosylated hemoglobin is one of the most important parameters to measure diabetes control. This parameter does not only reflect immediate sugar control. It gives you a reliable measure of the last few weeks or months. According to scientific evidence, the Mediterranean diet may improve insulin sensitivity. It is also associated with reducing glycosylated hemoglobin, a sign of better glucose control (4).
- A reduction of heart disease risk: Cardiovascular problems have multifactorial causes. There is not only one risk factor, but the Mediterranean diet covers many of them.
High cholesterol levels accumulate in plaques in the arteries. This process is called atherosclerosis and increases the risk of stroke and heart attack. But, as noted above, the lipid profile improves a lot if you follow a Mediterranean diet. Sustained high blood pressure is also lowered by this diet, reducing the long-term consequences.
Repeated studies over the long term and in many populations show how the Mediterranean dietary pattern is beneficial for heart patients. It also reduces the incidence of heart disease in healthy patients. It is recommended as a preventative and therapeutic measure (3).
- Cancer prevention: The Mediterranean diet includes more fruits and vegetables. Patients reduce or avoid the consumption of processed and refined foods. Inflammatory foods with high levels of saturated fats are not allowed or should be controlled.
Additionally, this diet increases your consumption of antioxidant foods. Altogether, all of these components contribute to reducing the incidence of cancer. Certain types of cancer respond well to a Mediterranean diet, and even though it is not a therapy, a healthy diet should be included as a part of the treatment in cancer patients.
Studies show that lifespan can be increased by consuming a Mediterranean diet. This is the result of having lower levels of cardiovascular risk and reducing the risk of cancer. It is, therefore, recommended for healthy individuals to stay healthy and prevent disease (5).
- Weight loss: The Mediterranean diet is a great way to lose weight. It is sustainable, not restrictive, and very useful. According to studies, weight loss achieved with a Mediterranean diet has a higher chance of being sustained over time.
It is also associated with several improvements in health parameters if you’re overweight. Since you have many protein sources, weight loss is often accompanied by an increase in muscle mass. Thus, you will experience body composition, especially if you combine the diet with exercise. Your metabolism will speed up, and you will see significant improvements in your levels of energy (6).
Unlike other fad diets, the Mediterranean pattern is recommended by health authorities. It has been tested in large populations and reproduced in different studies. So, it is a healthy and applicable approach to weight loss that we can always adapt as a suitable lifestyle modification.
- Lower risk of neurodegenerative problems: Neurodegeneration is something that irremediably happens after old age. But it should not affect older adults severely. When it starts affecting our day-to-day activities and cognition, we start calling them dementia. There are different types of dementia, and one of the most popular is Alzheimer’s disease.
There’s also vascular dementia and one that results from brain injury. According to studies, most dementia types slow down their progression in patients who follow the Mediterranean diet. Combined with physical activity, this diet prolongs the time it takes for the brain to develop the first symptoms of dementia.
In other words, if you were to develop this condition at age 70 years, the Mediterranean diet and exercise may extend that time to your 80 or 85 years. Experiencing the first symptoms at this age is excellent news. However, keep in mind that this is only a hypothetical case (7).
- Lower incidence of insomnia and sleep problems: Studies also show that the Mediterranean diet is associated with better sleep. These patients tend to have a better sleep quality and a more prolonged deep sleep phase. They have a higher chance of completing their sleeping cycles, so they wake up feeling more rested. The incidence of insomnia and other sleeping problems are reduced in people who consume the Mediterranean diet (8).
- Prostate health improvements: Prostate and sexual health in men is also significantly improved if they consume a Mediterranean diet. Most studies are focused on prostate cancer, as we will examine in the section below.
Can a Mediterranean diet protect against prostate cancer?
A recent study published in The Journal of Urology reported that the Mediterranean diet lowered the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer has different types. Luckily, most men display a slow-growing type, which sometimes stays in the prostate gland. Others have aggressive prostate cancer instead. This type does not remain in the prostate gland.
It migrates to the adjacent areas and invades healthy tissue. After that, it goes to distant places through the blood circulation and becomes life-threatening. Aggressive prostate cancer requires a combination of therapies, and it is difficult to control. However, the Mediterranean diet apparently gives the patient protection against this type of cancer.
We do know that prostate cancer and other types of cancer respond to environmental conditions. What happens in the environment influences the development of cancer. However, even though this is a common type of cancer, the research is limited to identifying food triggers and other dietary habits that may increase or decrease the risk.
Mediterranean diet and prostate cancer aggressiveness
The study mentioned above is critical because it was one of the first to address this issue. It shows that an increase in fish, olive oil, and legumes in the diet may have a protective effect.
Other foods associated with a reduction of aggressive prostate cancer include most fruits and vegetables, all of them present in the Mediterranean diet. Cancer risk is then reduced, as well as mortality for prostate cancer.
In this study, the investigators retrieved dietary data in healthy men and prostate cancer patients.
The mean age was 66 years, and they came from 7 regions in Spain. When prostate cancer was diagnosed, the investigators evaluated the histological findings and the Gleason scores, too. Three types of diet were characterized:
- The Mediterranean Diet.
- Prudent Diet (with fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and juices).
- Western Diet (which includes processed meat, dairy, sweets, sauces, and fast foods).
The investigators evaluated the predominant diet and the adherence of patients to such a diet.
Their results show a significant relationship between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and a reduction of aggressive prostate cancer risk. As you can see above, the Prudent diet is also very healthy. But it did not have as many positive results as the Mediterranean diet.
Apparently, the increase in fish consumption, olive oil, and other anti-inflammatory foods play a significant role. In the end, only people with high adherence to the Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
The investigators concluded that it is not a single food that protects against prostate cancer aggressiveness. It is the combination of foods in the Mediterranean diet, which reduces the risk of aggressiveness (9).
Mediterranean diet and prostate cancer mortality risk
Another study evaluated the mortality risk of prostate cancer in association with the Mediterranean diet. In other words, it evaluated how fatal is prostate cancer in people who eat a Mediterranean diet.
One of the primary foods in the Mediterranean diet is olive oil. According to a meta-analysis, consuming olive oil reduces the incidence of many types of cancer, including breast cancer risk, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, digestive tract cancers, skin cancer, epithelial cancers, colorectal cancer incidence, and others.
Vitamin E in olive oil is apparently one of the main substances that reduce the risk in the particular case of prostate cancer. Other minor constituents slow down the progression of cancer, including carotenoids, tyrosol, and others. They also contribute to a reduced risk.
Many studies show that olive oil has chemo-preventive effects that work in prostate cancer. It has a powerful antioxidant effect and modulates proliferation and cell signaling in cancer cells.
Lycopene is another component of the Mediterranean diet that is useful to reduce mortality in prostate cancer. Lycopene can be found in tomato sauce and raw tomato. However, it is more easily digested in cooked tomato sources. It is the most relevant antioxidant in tomatoes and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. Thus, a high intake of tomato and olive oil is recommended to maintain prostate cancer at bay.
According to this study, and based on many others, the Mediterranean diet may also be useful to slow down prostate cancer progression and reduce its mortality risk (10).
Prostate cancer can be a very concerning problem in males. It is one of the most common types of cancer in men.
It is associated with a significant burden of signs and symptoms, most of them associated with the urinary system. In some cases, prostate cancer grows very slowly, and patients are unlikely to die from this cause. But after prostate cancer enters into an advanced stage, it becomes fatal.
There are many treatment options for prostate cancer. However, it is always important to make lifestyle modifications to reduce the risk of progression. According to recent studies, adopting the Mediterranean diet can prevent prostate cancer and reduce patients’ mortality risk.
There is not only one component in the Mediterranean diet that reduces cancer incidence and progression. Instead, they are a combination of anti-inflammatory foods, antioxidants, vitamins, and phytonutrients.
Together, they reduce the incidence of aggressive cancers, including those found in other tissues. That’s one reason why the Mediterranean diet is associated with a larger lifespan and a healthier organism.