A study shows that a high intake of saturated fat, found mainly in foods of animal origin, causes an activation of the oncogenic pathways involved in the progression of prostate cancer cells.
Beneficial effect on cardiovascular health
A very large number of studies have clearly shown that replacement of saturated fat with unsaturated fats (especially mono-and polyunsaturated fats, omega-3) lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature mortality(1). This protection is due to the opposite effect of these two types of dietary fat on cholesterol levels-LDL, a major risk factor for heart attack and STROKE : while saturated fats increase the amount of LDL-cholesterol levels in the blood, the fatty acids decrease, meanwhile, the blood levels of this form of cholesterol. Since the majority of saturated fats come from foods of animal origin (meat, eggs, dairy products), while unsaturated fats are mainly found in plants (vegetable oils, nuts, some seeds), a simple way to achieve a good balance between the intake of saturated and unsaturated fats is therefore to increase the dietary intake of plants and decrease in parallel the consumption of products of animal origin.
The negative effect of saturated fat on health is not limited to an increase of LDL-cholesterol : several studies have shown that these fats also owned a share on a pro-inflammatory which would contribute to the development of some serious pathologies such as insulin resistance or progression of some cancers in the form of metastases.
The existence of a link between saturated fat and cancer progression is also suggested by a recent study carried out by the group of Dr. David Labbe, McGill University(2). Using a model of mice expressing the oncogene MYC and genetically predisposed to develop prostate cancer, these researchers have observed that a diet enriched in saturated fat was associated with major modifications of the metabolism of prostate cells, which led to the activation of several genes involved in tumor growth. The animals fed the saturated fat had tumours larger than those fed with a normal diet, strongly suggesting that these genes are activated by saturated fats contribute to the progression of prostate cancer. It is interesting to note that this activation is reversible, since a reduction of the intake of saturated fat cancels the increase of the expression of genes and abolishes the progression of tumors.
A very important point of the study is that this genetic signature is associated with a high intake of saturated fat is also observed in patients with a history of prostate cancer. Using data on the consumption of saturated fat, acquired during epidemiological studies (Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Physicians’ Health Study), they noted that patients with a prostate cancer which exhibited greater activation of genes at the level of their breast cancer had four times the risk of dying from their disease. This increase, however, is not observed for the unsaturated fatty acids (mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated), which confirms that it is the activation of genetic, induced by the saturated fat that is responsible for tumor progression.
Slow down the progression of the cancer
These observations suggest that a decreased dietary intake of saturated fats, could slow down the progression of cancer of the prostate and reduce the risk of mortality associated with advanced forms of this disease. This is an important discovery, because at the age of 40 years, approximately one-third of men have already tumors microscopic level of the prostate and are therefore at very high risk of developing a cancer of this organ in the course of the following decades. Preferable the fatty acids of vegetable origin, while limiting those of animal origin could therefore allow these microtumeurs prostate to remain in a state of dormancy and therefore be a promising way to reduce the high incidence of cancer of the prostate that affects our society. Bonus with a better cardiovascular health !
(1) Borén J et al. Low-density lipoproteins cause atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease: pathophysiological, genetic, and therapeutic insights: a consensus statement from the European Atherosclerosis Society Consensus Panel. Eur. Heart J., published online 13 February 2020.
(2) Labbé DP, et al. High-fat diet fuels prostate cancer growth by rewiring the metabolome and amplifying the MYC program. Nat. Common. 2019; 10 : 4358.