Tips for Good Prostate Health
A recent Google search for prostate supplements results in 261,000 references in the past month and** 9,500,000** overall. Three years ago, the number was just over 2 million. Just imagine if 1% of these were actually effective, the shortage of Urologists in the country, and the workforce shortage would be solved. But unfortunately this is not the case, and the vast majority of these substances are not at all effective. A day does not go by without a patient inquiring about something regarding a prostate cure that was either mailed to them or perhaps they read about in the back of the sports pages of major newspapers.
Many of these commercially available "cures for prostate disease" contain similar substances such as vitamin E, B-6, Selenium, Lycopene and Zinc. Others contain substances that are made from plant extracts such as Saw Palmetto and other plant extracts. Some manufacturers tout proprietary blends of substances but do not share what these substances are. Theses substances claim to improve urinary flow, reduce prostate enlargement, increase sex drive and protect against prostate cancer.
Certain substances such as pumpkin seeds have been reported to be a cure-all for the prostate. Data about pumpkin seeds is not conclusive and there has not been any published study that decisively proves the benefits of this treatment. Lycopene, Selenium and Vitamin E are commonly included in many of these miracle cure products, however there is good data that does not support their benefit.
In 2001, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) started the SELECT study, the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial. This study looked at the effects of selenium, and vitamin E on the development of prostate cancer. Initially hailed as a very promising study, after 5 years the trial was stopped, as the early data did not demonstrate any evidence that the supplements were working.
Most agree that there isn’t actually a specific diet directed at prostate health, but that does not mean that there are not dietary and lifestyle recommendation that can be followed. Most of these are fairly easy to adhere to and are guidelines that apply to healthy living and cancer prevention.
As for items directed towards bladder and prostate health, caffeine and soda should be limited. Caffeine is a direct stimulant of the bladder and results in increased urinary frequency. Soda, in addition to containing caffeine, also contains phosphoric acid which is know to weaken bones, as well as artificial sweeteners, whose effects are not fully known.
The consumption of organic dairy products, meats and produce are also high on the list of cancer preventive approaches. The pesticides that are found on produce have been shown to carcinogenic in farm workers. Non-organic meats contain hormones and additives that speed up animal growth. Organic meats come from animals that are not subject to the substances used to alter the animal growth rates. Similarly, non-organic dairy products contain the same substances.
The American Cancer Society has recommended lifestyle changes that maintain a healthy weight throughout life. Physical activity needs to be incorporated with 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week.
When choosing grains, it is probably best to avoid the "whites", with it being best to consume whole grains instead of reined grains. Other dietary recommendations include limiting processed meats and red meats and eating at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits daily. Lastly when considering what to eat, ideally you should choose those foods and beverages that will result in the maintenance of a healthy weight.
When evaluating various published studies regarding the effects of various dietary products and the development of prostate cancer, it becomes fairly obvious that more research needs to be done. A recent study has suggested that there is a decrease risk of advanced prostate cancer with increased vegetable intake, although no association with the overall incidence of the disease. Soy intake has recently been linked to a decrease in high-risk disease.
Common sense seems to be the best answer. If you are questioning if a food is good for you and your overall health, put it down or limit its intake. In all likelihood, your instincts are correct and you can do without it
Jay Motola, MD, is a board-certified urologist and attending physician, Department of Urology, Mount Sinai West, and Assistant Professor of Urology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Motola is a summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Boston University, and earned his medical degree at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.