A powerful tool for fighting advanced prostate cancer is androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). ADT is a form of non-surgical treatment, where chemical castration is prescribed to eliminate testosterone in men with advanced prostate cancer, since the disease is fueled by this hormone. It is widely used and is so effective at halting the progress of the cancer that men are often treated with ADT for many years.
About 600,000 men with advanced prostate cancer in the United States are undergoing this type of anti-hormonal treatment.
The only problem with ADT is it can come with a cost. Suppressing the male hormone testosterone is effective for slowing or preventing prostate cancer growth. However, ADT often results in men losing muscle mass and strength while gaining more weight in the form of fat. This extra weight can place men at significant risk for chronic health problems including metabolic disorder, a precursor to diabetes and heart disease.
Tools men can use fighting weight gain when using ADT
Valuable tools for men using ADT to help prevent withering muscle mass and increased weight gain, is to embrace healthy eating and exercise. Research published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine, have found that men using a comprehensive exercise and diet program can make significant strides in beating back fat mass while improving muscle mass and strength.
Giving up cigars and cigarettes is similarly beneficial to adopting a healthy diet, since tobacco smoke’s toxic effects on the heart are more pronounced in the absence of testosterone.
It has been known for some time that exercise is good for prostate cancer patients and survivors. This study, however, looked at using a group approach towards exercise along with a focus on diet. Researchers with the study found that men working together with other men to fight weight gain when on ADT helped to create a strong social support as they shared their experiences and challenges.
Men who participated using both exercise and diet saw gains in mobility and muscle strength and reductions in fat mass. The exercise regimens were tailored to each man’s ability and increased in intensity during the research. Workouts included weight-bearing exercise, such as leg extensions and bicep curls and aerobic exercise on a treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical trainer.
A registered dietitian led nutrition counseling which included adopting a plant-based diet and how to follow the nutritional guidelines supported by the American Cancer Society.
Another study found that taking daily walks and eating a low-carbohydrate diet can also lessen ADT’s harms.
The main take away from both studies was that both an exercise regimen and nutrition counseling work best when they are tailored to each individual man. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every man is different and each man has their own needs specific for them in regards to exercise and nutritional needs.