There are few things more irritating for men than an enlarged prostate. The regular trips to the restroom — especially during the night — are really a hassle.
But an enlarged prostate is more than a hassle. It’s a serious problem.
Fortunately, a new study shows this is one health problem you can easily avoid.
Researchers at the Division of Public Health Sciences in Seattle recently published a study of 4,770 healthy men. They had been following these men for the previous seven years.
At the beginning of the study all of the men had one thing in common, they were all free of any of the signs or symptoms of an enlarged prostate (BPH).
Then, during the next seven years, the researchers monitored what the men ate, what they drank, how their foods were cooked, and what supplements they took. The supplements included multivitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, zinc, vitamin D, fish oil, B-complex, iron, vitamin A, selenium, and niacin.
What they discovered may surprise you.
Of these 4,770 men, 876 of them eventually developed swollen prostates. And the researchers detected some statistically significant findings from those with the enlarged prostates.
The men with the diets highest in saturated fats had a 31% greater risk of BPH. The diets highest in polyunsaturated fats also increased the risk by 27%. But the diets highest in protein decreased the risk by 15%.
If you add it up, you can decrease your risk of enlarged prostate by about 50% simply by eating a low-fat diet along with a high-protein diet.
But here’s the surprising part.
Men who drank at least two alcoholic beverages per day reduced their risk by 33% compared to those who did not drink at all. That’s right, drinking alcohol lowers your risk!
The men who ate at least four servings of vegetables per day were 32% less likely than men who ate veggies less than once a day. And red meat also conferred risk. Those who ate red meat every day increased their risk 38% compared to those who ate it less than once a week.
In terms of the supplements, there was no decreased risk at all conferred by antioxidant nutrients. These included vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene. And there was just a minimal reduction in risk (less than 5%) in men who took lycopene, zinc, fish oil, or vitamin D supplements.
The authors concluded that, “A diet low in fat and red meat and high in protein and vegetables, as well as regular alcohol consumption, may reduce the risk of symptomatic BPH.” But I have something to say about how they did the study.
First of all, this was my favorite kind of study. It starts off with healthy people and follows them over time to see how their lifestyle influences their risk of getting sick. It’s called a prospective study, and it eliminates a lot of the statistical problems that plague other study formats.
But there was a problem with it. I wish that the researchers would have looked at much higher levels of the various supplements than they did. For example, the highest amount of fish oil that any of the men took was only ½ gram. That’s not nearly close to the 1-2 gram dose that another study proved effective.
Next, the level used to determine the group with the highest vitamin D intake was incredibly low. They took only 400 units per day. We now know that in order to have maximum benefit from vitamin D, you need to take at least 10-15 times this amount.
There also was a similar problem with selenium. In this case, the dose of selenium they considered the highest level was only 30 mcg. I’ve told you in the past that you need doses of selenium 10 times this amount to protect against prostate cancer. And it’s likely that a 30 mcg dose is just not high enough to protect against BPH.
So, for me, there’s a completely different conclusion to this study: “A diet low in fat and red meat and high in protein and vegetables, as well as regular alcohol consumption, may reduce the risk of symptomatic BPH. And in order for nutritional supplements to prevent BPH, they have to be taken in much greater amounts than doctors generally recommend.”
Kristal AR, Arnold KB, Schenk JM, Neuhouser ML, Goodman P, Penson DF, Thompson IM. Dietary patterns, supplement use, and the risk of symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia: results from the prostate cancer prevention trial. J Epidemiol. 2008 April 15;167(8):925-34. Epub 2008 February 7.