Monday, May 01, 2006

Protect your prostate; for some men, diet makes or breaks prostate health

A LINK BETWEEN genetics and diet may determine if you get prostate cancer. About one in four men have an inherited genetic variation (MnSOD AA) that makes them vulnerable to prostate cancer if their levels of certain antioxidants--namely lycopene, selenium, and vitamin E--are low. This is according to a study conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Unfortunately, you can't get tested to see if you have the vulnerable genotype. "We're not at that stage yet," says lead researcher Haojie Li, M.D. So how do you know if you should eat your tomatoes, Brazil nuts, and wheat germ? The prostates of men with the other genotypes (MnSOD VV or MnSOD VA) are not as vulnerable to oxidative stress, says Li, "but from the current knowledge, it looks like these antioxidants are beneficial for all men in terms of prostate-cancer prevention."

In a related study, reported in April at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, the antioxidants found in green tea showed remarkable protection against prostate cancer. After taking 600 milligrams per day of caffeine-free catechins for a year, only one man in a group of 32 subjects with pre-malignant lesions developed prostate cancer, compared to nine men in a control group. (Other research has found that a daily glass of red wine may cut prostate-cancer risk in half; see our March 2005 issue, page 107.)

In addition, too much cholesterol is detrimental, prostate-wise. While elevated blood cholesterol doesn't seem to cause prostate cancer, it can help an existing tumor thrive, say researchers at Children's Hospital in Boston. Anti-cholesterol statin drugs are a viable treatment option. But the bottom line is that a healthy diet high in antioxidants and low in cholesterol-promoting trans and saturated fats can only do a fella good.

Prostate Defenders

what where

Lycopene Tomato products,
watermelon, pink

Selenium Brazil nuts, tuna, beef,
turkey, enriched pasta

Vitamin E Wheat germ,
hazelnuts, almonds,
sunflower seeds
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