Increased Vegetable Intake Fails to Slow Prostate Cancer Progression, Study Finds

Researchers in the United States have conducted a study investigating whether a telephone-based interventional program encouraging an increased intake of vegetables would slow disease progression among patients with early-stage prostate cancer.


Image Credit: Alexander Raths/

Although the behavioral intervention did increase the men’s consumption of micronutrient-rich vegetables for two years, it did not produce any significant delay in disease progression, compared with control patients who received only written information about diet and prostate cancer.

The data from this study fail to support clinical guidelines and media claims suggesting that increased vegetable consumption may improve clinical outcome for patients with prostate cancer.

Previous studies and current guidelines

Some studies have indicated that eating certain foods can slow disease progression among prostate cancer survivors and many men want to know whether following a particular diet might help or even cure their cancer.

Guidelines that circulate widely in the public domain endorse vegetable-enriched diets as a way of improving outcomes among this patient group. The recommendations, which are based on preclinical studies, observational data and expert opinion propose that such a diet may decrease disease progression and even death among this patient group.

Randomized clinical trials are needed

Indirect evidence suggests that consumption of micronutrient-enriched plants may promote genomic stability, induce expression of cytoprotective enzymes, and decrease the risk of lethal prostate cancer, but data from randomized clinical trials focused on actionable clinical endpoints are lacking,”  

J. Kellogg Parsons (University of California, San Diego Moores Comprehensive Cancer Center)

The team says that trials showing the effectiveness of vegetable enriched diets in slowing disease progression would justify the development of behavioral interventions encouraging prostate cancer patients to adopt such diets.

The majority of patients present with early-stage prostate cancer and choose active surveillance (where they are monitored with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing and follow-up biopsies) over immediate treatment with surgery or radiation. However, at least one-third of these patients experience disease progression or undergo definitive treatment within two years of follow-up.

Interventions that prevent disease progression would decrease the need for treatment and improve the quality of life among these patients and diet modification represents one potential approach to achieving this.

What did the current study involve?

To investigate whether a behavioral intervention designed to increase micronutrient-enriched vegetable intake among men with early-stage prostate cancer was effective at preventing disease progression, Parsons and team conducted a phase 3 study called The Men’s Eating and Living (MEAL) Study.

This randomized clinical trial was conducted at 91 urology and medical oncology clinics and involved 478 men, aged 50 to 80 years, diagnosed with early-stage prostate adenocarcinoma, who were on active surveillance.

Patients were randomly assigned to receive a motivational telephone-based behavioral counseling encouraging consumption of at least 7 daily servings of vegetables (intervention group, n=237) or written information about diet and prostate cancer (control group, n= 241.)

The men were enrolled between January 2011 to August 2015 and were followed up over two years from January 2013 to August 2017.

The findings failed to support the use of the intervention

As reported in JAMA, the intervention did produce robust and sustained increases in the men’s consumption of carotenoid-, cruciferous-rich and leafy green vegetable for two years. However, there was no significant difference in time-to-disease-progression between the intervention and control groups.

“These data fail to support prevailing assertions in evidence-based clinical guidelines and the popular media that diets high in micronutrient-enriched vegetables improve cancer-specific outcomes among prostate cancer survivors,” writes the team.

“The findings do not support the use of this intervention to decrease prostate cancer progression in this population,” they conclude.


Did increasing vegetable consumption reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression? Eurekalert 2020. Available at:

What foods should I eat or avoid if I have prostate cancer? Prostate Cancer UK 2018. Available at:

Journal reference:

Parsons JK, et al. Effect of a Behavioral Intervention to Increase Vegetable Consumption on Cancer Progression Among Men with Early-Stage Prostate Cancer The MEAL Randomized Clinical Trial JAMA 2020;323(2):140-148. DOI:10.1001/jama.2019.20207

Sally Robertson

Written by

Sally Robertson

Sally first developed an interest in medical communications when she took on the role of Journal Development Editor for BioMed Central (BMC), after having graduated with a degree in biomedical science from Greenwich University.


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  1. Rich Landi Rich Landi United States says:

    From what I have read in the past a diet to slow progression of prostate cancer was not just about increasing vegetables but also not eating those foods found to further progression.  In my opinion this study maybe one sided and not valid.  Comparable to someone trying to lose weight and drinking diet soda but eating too much of everything else.  I am very concerned with the validity of the study especially knowing that Dr. Parson's headed it. My experience with him as a patient was not positive.  I have been on active surveillance for 13 years. I have been using diet and exercise to help slow the progression.  I realize that I cannot prove that this has in fact slowed the cancer and maybe I am just lucky.  I have read too many studies about good and bad food for prostate cancer so I will continue my diet both eating those foods thought to slow progression as well as avoid foods found to cause progression.

  2. Paul Tavenner Paul Tavenner United States says:

    It's hard to make these studies accurate if the participants aren't being monitored on their consumption.  It's possible that the test indicates that encouragement from a health professional to a patient isn't an effective way to ensure patients actually consume 7 servings of vegetables per day.  Also, if those same patients are consuming foods or doing activities that encourage cancer progression, it's difficult for a study to be accurate.  

    Thanks for reporting on it.  I wish the study showed that simply encouraging patients to eat 7 servings of vegetables/day would result in patients doing it AND that doing so slowed or stopped PCa progression.  More studies are needed for sure.  Keep learning and fighting!

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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