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Choline intake linked to lethal prostate cancer risk

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By David Liu, PHD

Tuesday Sept 11, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that eating too much choline-rich foods such as meat, milk and eggs may increase risk of lethal prostate cancer. It is a possibility, but the study is not a trial and a causal relationship has not been established.

Erin L.  Richman of Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA and colleagues conducted the study and found men in the highest quintile of choline intake were at 70 percent increased risk of lethal prostate cancer, compared with those in the lowest quintile.

Meat, milk and eggs, which are high in choline, have been associated with risk of lethal prostate cancer although not all studies are consistent. The current study was intended to examine whether intake of choline is associated with the risk of lethal prostate cancer.

For the study, the researchers analysed data from 47,896 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study to determine whether  an association exists between intake of choline and risk of lethal prostate cancer.  They also evaluated how the intake of choline affects the survival rate among 4,282 men with diagnosed nonmetastatic prostate cancer during the follow-up.

During 879,627 person-years, 695 men were diagnosed with lethal prostate cancer.  Men who had the highest intake of choline were found 70 percent more likely to develop lethal prostate cancer, compared with those who had the lowest intake.

In a case-only analysis of 271 lethal cases identified during 33,679 person-years, no significant association was observed between post diagnostic choline intake and risk of lethal prostate cancer among patients who were diagnosed with nonmetastastic prostate cancer.

The researchers concluded "choline intake was associated with an increased risk of lethal prostate cancer."

Prostate cancer is expected in more than 230,000 American men in 2012 and the disease is expected to kill about 40,000 men in the same year in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute.

Prostate cancer is in most cases preventable. The disease is generally non-aggressive and can be easily controlled.

Meat and dairy products have been associated with increased risk of prostate cancer.  One explanation for this association is that these foods contain high levels of an amino acid called methionine, which cancer cells need for proliferation and growth, according to some studies.

Choline is not a vitamin, but an essential nutrient.  It plays multiple roles in human physiology.  Choline salts like choline chloride and choline bitartrate are available as dietary supplements.

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