Prostate Disorders: Part 4
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Diet and Prostate Cancer
Now, let’s have a look at those foods with the best track record for helping to prevent prostate disorders, and for fighting prostate cancer.
“All together, the data suggest that fish intake, especially fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring, may reduce risk of clinically significant prostate cancer, by up to 63%.”
Now, while fish oil supplements are not as effective as eating fish for certain ailments (preventing stroke, for example), it does appear that a fish oil supplement may be of value with regards to the prostate. For example, data from a clinical trial “reported that EPA (a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid) measured in the men’s prostate tissue was associated with lower risk of prostate cancer progression”. EPA is easy to obtain from a fish oil supplement, and there are in fact many high EPA products available (though always choose one that still contains at least 25% DHA, so as not to cause an imbalance in these important fatty acids).
Furthermore, “a clinical trial among men scheduled for surgery for prostate cancer showed that fish oil intake for 4–6 weeks prior to the surgery inhibited prostate cancer tumour growth”. So, if you are not going to eat fish regularly (not farmed, and not high-mercury fish like cod and halibut), it seems to be a good idea to supplement with a fish oil product.
The benefits of drinking coffee regularly extend to protecting the prostate, and is “associated with a significant reduction in the risk of developing lethal prostate cancer and experiencing recurrence or progression”. Now, I like a good cup of coffee daily, but six cups per day seems excessive to me, yet that is the level at which serious protection occurs. In a study of nearly 48,000 men, there was an impressive 60% reduction in the risk of lethal prostate cancer for the men who drank 6 or more cups daily.
Since the results were the same for caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, we know that the beneficial substance here is not the caffeine, and most researchers assume the ensuing prostate protection is derived from the antioxidant effects of coffee. And, if you don’t drink coffee, but have just survived prostate cancer, it is never too late to start. One recent study following men diagnosed with prostate cancer “found that drinking ≥4 cups per day of coffee versus ≤1 cup/week was associated with a 59% reduced risk of prostate cancer recurrence/progression”.
What really strikes me here, is that this is not organic coffee that we are talking about. “Coffee beans are among the most highly sprayed and chemically treated crops in the world”, and, aside from synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides, can also be contaminated with mold and micotoxins. (Source) So, those must be some damn strong antioxidants in coffee for the benefits to outweigh the detriments, especially when all these toxic compounds found on commercial coffee beans are often linked to increased cancer risk. (For more on why coffee is so beneficial see this previous newsletter, Coffee, Gut Flora, and the Benefits of Chlorogenic Acid, if you have not yet read it.)
Bottom line: coffee is good for your prostate, but even better if you choose organic coffee as often as possible, and still better if it is freshly ground and brewed.
Most of us are well aware that the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, chard, brussels sprouts, and kale) have anti-cancer properties. We know this because studies “suggest that metabolites of cruciferous vegetables, isothiocyanates, and indoles, may detoxify carcinogenic compounds, stop cancer cells from growing and dividing, and promote apoptosis”. And, more than one study has confirmed these properties to apply to prostate cancer, such that “greater consumption of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a lower risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer”.
Furthermore, it is never too late to start eating your broccoli. One study examined cruciferous vegetable intake after a prostate cancer diagnosis, and found that those men with the highest intake of cruciferous vegetables (5 or more servings per day), had 59% lower risk of prostate cancer progressing compared to the men with the lowest intake (less than 1.5 servings per day). Though, I will admit, it would be difficult to consume 5 servings of these vegetables daily, so, were I in this position, I think I would incorporate a broccoli concentrated supplement, in order to more easily attain the protective benefits of the aforementioned metabolites.
As my regular readers know, I carry no anti-soy sentiments. I have raised three children on a diet high in soy foods and, while they may not consume as much in their adult diets, I have continuously eaten a high soy diet for the last 40 some years. (And look at me: I’m fine.) Of course, these days more than ever in the past, it is important that the soy foods be organic, or at least non-GMO. But, for our purposes here, we want to look at the potential of soy foods to protect against prostate cancer. And, indeed, “studies suggest that isoflavones, found in soy products, inhibit prostate cancer cell growth, invasion, migration, and metastasis”. As well, studies of Asian populations, who have a much higher intake of soy foods than Western peoples, show that “soy intake is inversely associated with risk of developing prostate cancer”.
However, unlike with some of the previous foods we looked at, it does not appear that increasing soy intake after a diagnosis of prostate cancer will reduce cancer progression, though it may be of value as a way of replacing unhealthy sources of protein such as processed meats.
Since pomegranate juice was not discussed in the above meta-analysis, I will touch upon it here, as it is often recommended by natural health practitioners for those with prostate disorders. Pomegranate juice has been shown to decrease PSA levels, as well as to inhibit the spread of cancer cells, and increase cancer cell death, in men who have prostate cancer. (Source) However, since this study came out (2009), other studies have questioned its validity.
Nonetheless, since all the researchers agree that pomegranate juice is safe to use, it seems a good idea to consider it part of our arsenal. Especially when we consider this meta-analysis: “Pomegranate has been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, hemorrhoids, intestinal parasites, sore throat, diabetes, epistaxis, and vaginal itching and is believed to be tonic for the heart. In addition, it has recently been used in treatment of numerous diseases including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, arthritis, male infertility, obesity, and cardiovascular disorders.” (Source)
I will wrap up the food section with a quick look at the oldest food-based remedy for prostate disorders: pumpkin seeds. For therapeutic purposes, if one does not wish to consume copious amounts of the seeds, pumpkin seed oil is used, either in liquid or capsule forms. Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) seed oil has been clinically proven to relieve BPH symptoms with no side effects, but was not as effective as the drug used. (Source) However, drugs usually have some side effects, and for pumpkin seed oil to be nearly as effective as a drug, without any other natural therapies added, and no side effects, well that‘s a no-brainer.
In one rat study, the reduction in BPH that occurred when the rats were fed pumpkin seed oil was determined to be a result of the phytosterols found in the oil, which resulted in lowering 5-alpha reductase in the gland. (Source)
Eating pumpkin seeds has a couple of advantages over taking the oil. Namely, one gets some fibre and protein, and the seeds are a good source of naturally occurring zinc, something that would have been important in the days before zinc supplements were available.
But wait, there’s more. A big meta-analysis on pumpkin seed oil opens with: “several studies have suggested the crucial roles and effectiveness of pumpkin seed oil in the treatment of diabetes, anxiety and even cancer”. Further on in the study the researchers determined that “pumpkin seed extract could improve the fertility and help in preventing arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure and heart diseases as well as in stimulating the metabolism of accumulated fats”. Pumpkin seed oil also proved valuable for treating hair loss (which has the same hormonal mechanism as BPH), memory problems, and overactive bladder. (Source)
Finally, I would like to demonstrate the potential value of NutriStart’s Liposomal Curcum/Resveratrol product, for the treatment of BPH, and the prevention of prostate cancer. As established scientifically, “prostate cancer…is known to be affected by the action of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) via androgen receptor (AR).” So one study set out to investigate “the inhibition effect of resveratrol on DHT-induced prostate cancer metastasis”, concluding that: “This study would suggest that Res and its combination with AR and CXCR4 antagonists can be used in order to suppress the metastatic behaviors of prostate cancer”. (Source)
Other studies have looked at turmeric extracts and their effect upon the prostate, with one study comparing curcumin to the drug finasteride, concluding that “these results suggested that curcumin inhibited the development of BPH and might be a useful herbal treatment or functional food for BPH”. (Source)
And, since the mechanisms which cause BPH (such as elevated DHT levels) are also implicated, eventually, in the development of prostate cancer, it stands to reason that if curcumin is good for treating BPH it should prove helpful for treating and preventing prostate cancer. Which it is. “Curcumin exhibits anti-cancer properties by suppressing cancer cells growth and survival, inflammation, invasion, cell proliferation as well as possessing the ability to induce apoptosis in malignant cells.” (Source) (Source)
For a long while now I have touted the superiority of liposomal-based nutrients, but it is nice to be able to wrap up this bit with some science confirming that this form of curcumin is proven to be especially effective for treating cancer. To wit: “Liposomal CUR formulation has greater growth inhibitory and pro-apoptotic effects on cancer cells.” (Source) Which makes sense since liposomal curcumin can enter into the cells readily, whereas other forms of curcumin must work from outside the cells.
Wow, that was a lot of material on our little buddy the prostate gland, and hopefully some of you made it all the way through, and found it to be of some value.
Now, just imagine if a doctor knew all this, and when you went to his or her office (or the walk-in clinic, as is more likely here), he or she could tell you what foods to avoid, which to incorporate into your diet, and what supplements you could take to treat your BPH, or prostate cancer (even if there were some drug therapies included). All the material discussed is, as we have seen, suggestions that are scientifically valid and well researched. But no. Your doctor will start with a drug, and end with more drugs. Drugs like finasteride, with a list of side effects that are often worse than just living with the BPH.
(Finasteride side effects: decreased sex drive; trouble getting or keeping an erection; ejaculation disorder; increase in breast size and tenderness; skin rash. Source)
It is a sad day when a layman (myself) can tell you more about maintaining the health of your prostate gland than can a highly trained medical professional. At this point in our medical system, you are better off going to a pharmacist than a doctor. At least they will give you the full facts about potential side effects about the drugs you will inevitably receive; something most doctors neglect to mention (or don’t really know about).