By Robert Preidt
Androgen-deprivation therapy suppresses testosterone and other male hormones that drive prostate cancer growth.
But suppressing those hormones leads to loss of muscle mass and strength as well as increased body fat, which puts patients at risk for diabetes, heart disease and other health problems, the Ohio State University researchers explained.
Their small study of 32 men found that moderate workouts and healthy eating protected against side effects of androgen-deprivation treatment.
Half of the men took part in a 12-week exercise and nutrition program, while the other half received only basic education about their diagnosis and about exercise.
Three months after the program, participants in the exercise group had gains in muscle strength and mobility, and decreases in body fat. Patients who weren't in the program had declines in muscle strength and mobility, and increases in body fat, according to the study.
Lead author Brian Focht, a professor of human sciences, said the benefits of a group approach to exercise and diet were greater than he expected for such a short period of time.
"As they gain fat and lose muscle during hormone therapy, these men are at significant risk for chronic health problems including metabolic disorder, a precursor to diabetes and heart disease," Focht noted in a university news release.
He stressed that the program tested is not a "one-size-fits-all" solution.
"Each man needs to work within his own limits, and each has different needs nutritionally," said Focht. He said he hopes to do a larger study with about 200 prostate cancer patients.
"There's an increasingly recognized focus on the holistic treatment of cancer patients. We not only want to add years to life, but we want to add life to their years," Focht said.
The study was recently published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.