New Study Links Low-Protein Diet during Pregnancy to Risk of Prostate Cancer in Offspring

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Researchers from São Paulo State University suggested that intrauterine protein restriction induces sex hormone imbalance possibility leading to development of cancer in old age.

The research conducted on rats by São Paulo State University’s Bioscience Institute (IBB-UNESP) in Botucatu, Brazil reports high risk of prostate cancer in offspring of females fed with a low-protein diet during pregnancy. The research supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) was published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A on May 14, 2018.

A previous study led by Luis Antonio Justulin Junior, a professor at IBB-UNESP, highlighted that intrauterine exposure to a low-protein diet impairs prostate development. The rat model used in Justulin’s laboratory consists of feeding pregnant females a diet with only 6% protein. Laboratory rats are normally fed a diet that contains between 17% and 23% protein. The team divided the pregnant rats into three groups. A standard diet with at least 17% protein was fed to the control group during pregnancy and a 21-day lactation period. Furthermore, the offspring were fed the standard diet after weaning. The researchers observed that no cases of prostate cancer were found in these offspring 540 days after birth.

A diet with 6% protein was fed to the second group of females during pregnancy. The group along with the offspring was fed the standard diet after pregnancy. After a time period of 540 days after birth, when the rats are old, it was observed that 33% of their male offspring had developed prostate cancer. Furthermore, 50% of the offspring of the third group fed with low-protein diet throughout pregnancy and lactation, developed prostate cancer. The researchers are now testing the effects of altered hormone levels in old age in favor of carcinogenesis (tumor formation).

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