Prostate Basics: 4 Nutrients to Support Prostate Health
Men, are you concerned about the health of your prostate? You should be. An estimated 60 percent of men between the ages of 40 and 59 have an enlarged prostate gland, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). By age 85, that number climbs to 90 percent. Compound that with a staggering 238,590 estimated new cases of prostate cancer in 2009 alone, and the message becomes clear: All men should support prostate health through diet and supplementation.1 It’s not just a matter of function and comfort—it’s an issue of life and death.
Yes, those statistics are troubling. But you don’t have to become a number. Even if you already suffer from BPH or another condition of the prostate, there are natural options for prostate support.
Eat and Live Well
Most of the healthy habits for total wellness have a direct impact on the prostate. First, eat afresh diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish, and healthy fats from plants; we recommend the Mediterranean diet because of the extensive research that has proven its healthful benefits to the body. Cutting down on dairy may have a benefit, too. According to the Mayo Clinic, some studies have shown that men who eat larger amounts of dairy have higher rates of prostate cancer. Drinking the powerful antioxidant green tea and adding prostate-healthy isoflavones to your diet through foods like tofu, kidney beans, lentils and peanuts also support prostate function.2 Limit or avoid alcohol and caffeine, too, and be sure to drink plenty of water.
Along with diet, regular exercise and weight loss increase prostate health. According to the ongoing Harvard-based Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, men who were more physically active had decreased incidence of BPH. The study also found that men with localized prostate cancer who engaged in vigorous activity at least three hours each week were 61 percent less likely to die from the illness compared to men who did vigorous activity for less than one hour each week.3 Maintaining a healthy weight supports the health of the prostate, as well.
Supplement for Prostate Health
You can’t take a pill to ensure prostate health, but you can supplement with targeted nutrients that have been proven to reduce the risk of prostate dysfunction. Here are a few nutrients to try:
- Saw palmetto – Extract from the ripened fruit of the saw palmetto plant has long been used to decrease symptoms of BPH and treat prostate infections. It is also used as a complementary treatment in men with prostate cancer. When selecting a saw palmetto supplement, be sure it is made of at least 85 percent free fatty acids; a supplement that includes phytosterol complex, lycopene, vitamin B6 and zinc is a good option.
- Zinc – Deficiency in the essential mineral zinc has been linked to prostate dysfunction. While research regarding zinc supplementation in humans is relatively new, several studies on animals have shown zinc’s beneficial role in prevention and complementary treatment of prostate cancer. Researchers from the University of Washington additionally found that “long-term supplemental zinc intake was associated with reduced risk of clinically relevant advanced [prostate cancer]” in men who participated in the study.4
- Folic acid – Folate is a B vitamin that can be found in foods like orange juice, beans and green vegetables; folic acid is the man-made version of folate that can be taken through supplements and is added to fortified foods like cereals and breads. According to the National Cancer Institute, a 10-year study found that men who took 1 milligram of folic acid reduced the risk of prostate cancer; men who got enough folate through diet also reduced the risk of prostate cancer.5 Additional research in Nutrition and Cancer showed that increased dietary folate is associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer, particularly high-grade prostate cancer.6
While BPH, prostate cancer and other forms of prostate dysfunction tend to develop in aging men, it is never too early—or too late—to give your prostate the nutrients it needs to function optimally. Along with a healthy lifestyle, a targeted supplementation regimen or increased dietary intake of certain nutrients may be just what you need to stay healthy as you age.
Most importantly, talk to your doctor about when and how often to screen for prostate cancer. And since symptoms of BPH can be similar to those of prostate cancer, be sure to see your physician if you think you might have an enlarged prostate.
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