Nutrition-wise blog

Enlarged prostate — Does diet play a role?

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. January 15, 2010

After watching one of those commercials about guys having the frequent need to urinate, my husband asked me if the problem was related to diet. Shortly after that, Chris posted a similar question to this blog: "Does anyone know if there are certain foods I can eat that have been proven helpful in men's prostate health?"

The risk of an enlarged prostate, also called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, increases about 4 percent a year after age 55. By age 60, half of men will have BPH. That number jumps to 95 percent by age 85. And, yes, diet does seem to be related.

A recent article in a medical journal looked at the effects of diet and supplements on prostate health. The article found that the following lifestyle factors were associated with a lower risk of BPH:

  • High level of physical activity and no "belly fat"
  • A low-fat diet
  • Five or more servings of vegetables a day
  • Two glasses of alcohol a day

In addition, the article mentioned some specific nutrients:

  • Vitamin C from vegetables was associated with lower risk. Vegetables highest in vitamin C include bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, snow or snap peas, cauliflower, kale and tomato or vegetable juices.
  • Foods higher in zinc also seemed to be beneficial. These include oysters, crab, baked beans, duck, lamb and beef (lean).

Interestingly, a high fruit intake didn't affect the risk of BPH. And the role of total protein was unclear. Some studies demonstrated an increased risk in men who ate red meat every day compared with men who only ate it once a week, but other studies found a decreased risk in men with a high total protein intake. Finally, the article found no evidence that dietary or herbal supplements were useful in preventing or treating BPH.

Take note, gentlemen: A healthy prostate is yet another reason to exercise, avoid obesity, eat your vegetables, keep fat intake low and enjoy an occasional drink.

- Jennifer

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Jan. 15, 2010