As with so many conditions, if not most, diet plays an absolutely central role in prostate health. There are two types of diets that are considered to be important for a healthy prostate and reduce the risk of prostate cancer
Diet, Diet, Diet ... Reduces the Risk of Prostate Cancer
The first of these two is the traditional Japanese diet—with high amounts of fish, soy protein, vegetables and green tea. It is also low in calories, fat and red meat. Japanese men tend to have lower rates of prostate cancer than, for example, do American men. But, if a Japanese man emigrates to the US and eats more of an American-type diet, his chances of prostate cancer increase to become similar to that of American men.
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa Repens) for a Healthy ProstateSaw palmetto (also known as sereno repens) is a type of palm—the fruits of this plant have been used for many years to treat BPH (Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy), male pattern baldness, prostatitis and cystitis. It is approved by the German Commission E—a group that is used to determine the safety and efficacy of herbs in Europe—to treat BPH and prostate complaints. In one large analysis, with over 3000 patients, Saw palmetto showed benefit in treating both the discomfort and urinary issues in BPH. It acts to decrease 5-alpha-reductase in a way that is similar to the drug, tamsulosin (Flomax®).
Saw palmetto also acts as an anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmotic—these two effects may be the reason Saw palmetto benefits discomfort and helps reduce any urinary problems associated with an enlarged prostate. Saw palmetto also decreases the binding of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) to receptors—this is probably the mechanism behind the effect saw palmetto has on decreasing the size of the prostate—because the binding of DHT appears to be part of the process that stimulates the growth of the prostate—the hypertrophy.
Saw palmetto also stimulates a process termed apoptosis— this is a process of programmed cell death—and where, in the prostate, cells begin to die off. This may also be one of the ways saw palmetto reduces the size of the prostate—by increasing the amount of cell death. Saw palmetto does interact with anti-coagulants—blood thinners. So, if you are taking this herb and are on blood thinners, make sure you speak to a knowledgeable physician before you start taking the saw palmetto.
Preventing Prostate Cancer with Antioxidants?Anti-oxidants have been a lot in the news lately—because it turns out they are very effective in mopping-up the excess oxidized compounds that every organism is always producing. These oxidized compounds are a normal product, but can damage tissues and organs if they are present in high concentrations. Anti-oxidants ensure that the concentration of these compounds is reduced. Lycopene is a caretenoid, an anti-oxidant and slows down the growth of the prostate gland. It is found in human blood, skin, liver, lungs, colon and—the prostate.
Another anti-oxidant is Vitamin E . Vitamin E (along with selenium) has been used to prevent prostate cancer. I recommend it both Vitamin E and selenium supplements for general health, but the jury is still out as to whether it can actually prevent prostate cancer. Another anti-oxidant is in green tea. The record is more solid that drinking green tea can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. The question always comes up—how much green tea to drink? My answer is — if you enjoy green tea, drink as much as you like. If you don’t like it so much, try for at least a cup or two a day.
Soy Products And Vitamin D and Their Influence on Prostate HealthSoy protein isn’t just good for women during menopause—it also appears that the phytoestrogens in soy and legumes may very well help to prevent prostate cancer in men. It is believed that one of the reasons Asian men have lower rates of prostate cancer is due to the large amounts of soy protein and legumes regularly seen in Asian diets. 10 The phytoestrogens act as an anti-androgen—and since the hypertrophy seen in BPH and cancer is dependent on testosterone, it is thought that the phytoestrogens block the actions of testosterone. Soy and soy products may also help stop the spread, or metastases, of prostate cancer cells throughout the body. This is based on a study of genistein, one of the main phytoestrogens in soy.
Finally, Vitamin D has also been in the news lately. Many physicians are recommending supplements of Vitamin D because of its importance in many areas of health—but also because it turns out to be very important in maintaining a healthy immune system and in maintaining calcium levels. It is the immune system that may kill off cancer cells before they are able to grow into a tumor. There are relatively few food sources of Vitamin D—our skin cells make it when exposed to sunlight. Fish oils, eggs and dairy are a good source of Vitamin D. If you live in an area that doesn’t get much sun—especially in the winter months, talk to your physician about Vitamin D supplements.