Sun | Apr 30, 2017

Foods to protect the prostate

Published:Wednesday | August 20, 2014 | 8:00 AM

IN JAMAICA, as in many other parts of the world, prostate cancer is the commonest cancer in men, and becomes a life-threatening illness when it spreads out from the prostate gland and invades other tissues.

In the past, whenever a natural substance was suggested for the treatment of a major illness like cancer, conventional medicine tended not to give it serious attention. That trend is now shifting. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has an annual conference where new cancer treatments are often introduced to doctors. In 2013, the ASCO programme included a report on a natural food pill that appears to offer significant benefit for prostate cancer.

A group of UK-based researchers identified four plant foods known to have anti-cancer properties. They created a specific concentrated blend of these four cancer-fighting foods in a capsule to be taken, by mouth, twice daily. Then they tested its effect in the strictest way known to science - a double blind, placebo controlled, randomised trial.

Changes in Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) are the most widely used indicators of the progression of prostate cancer. Recent research suggests that a rising PSA may not only suggest prostate cancer, but PSA may, itself, encourage prostate cancer cells to grow faster. The investigators, therefore, decided to study the effect of the 'four food pill' on the PSA of 203 men diagnosed by prostate biopsy with prostate cancer. Half of the men were given the 'four food pill' while the others were given a placebo for a six-month period, during which time their PSA levels were monitored.

The results were that the PSA of the placebo group increased 63.4 per cent more than the 'four food pill' group and almost half of the men in the 'four food pill' group had a stable or lower PSA after six months. All the four components of the pill: green tea, pomegranate, turmeric and broccoli, have independently demonstrated protective benefits on the prostate gland. Let us examine each ingredient in this new prostate cancer-fighting food pill to see what each one offers and how they complement each other to lower the risk of prostate cancer progression.

Green tea makes a unique contribution to the anti-prostate cancer 'four food pill' because it contains special naturally occurring polyphenols compounds called catechins. Studies show that one of green tea's catechins, EGCG, accumulates specifically in the prostate gland, where it selectively kills cancer cells (leaving healthy cells unaffected) and reduces PSA levels.

Green tea is already well known as a prostate cancer preventer in Japan because epidemiological studies done there have documented prostate cancer risk reduction of up to 86 per cent in Japanese men who drink the most green tea.

The active constituents in pomegranate induce the death of malignant prostate cells through a process called apoptosis. This remarkable result is partly because naturally occurring polyphenols in pomegranate like those in green tea are concentrated in prostatic tissue. Once in the organ, these polyphenols selectively inhibit cancer cell from proliferating, leaving healthy prostate cells unharmed. Pomegranate polyphenols also have an effect on certain genes to inhibit the production of special proteins that cancer cells need for their rapid growth.

Pomegranate compounds suppress the creation of cancer-causing substances in the digestive system while reducing inflammation, a condition known to promote cancer. They also block the growth of new blood vessels inside prostate tumours, and inhibit the ability of prostate cancer cells to spread.

Turmeric's contribution to the prostate cancer fight comes from its wonderful anti-inflammatory properties found in its main component, curcumin. By reducing inflammation, curcumin lowers the risk of the disease spreading outside the prostate, the common cause of death in prostate cancer patients. Curcumin also down-regulates genes that encourage prostate cancer cells to spread, as well as, reduces the production of PSA by prostate cancer cells.

In addition to circumin, the whole turmeric root contains other substances that not only enhances the absorption of curcumin but have their own anti-cancer actions. Turmeric's other components inhibit cancer cell growth and promote cancer cell death by apoptosis.

Broccoli's role in the prostate cancer food pill is to enhance detoxifying enzymes in the intestines and liver and thus neutralise thousands of dangerous carcinogenic chemicals in our diet. In addition, the sulphur-rich substances in broccoli, particularly sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, have been identified as potent anti-cancer genetic regulators.

Men with high consumption of broccoli have a 40 per cent lower risk of invasive prostate cancer. In animal research, broccoli feeding reduced prostate tumour weight by 42 per cent in mice with prostate cancer, and suppressed the growth of implanted human prostate cancer cells by 40 per cent. Broccoli compounds also reduce PSA production by prostate cancer cells in the laboratory rats.

Thus, each of these four foods works in different but complementary ways to modify how prostate cancer cells develop and grow. Using all four, combined into one capsule, offers a simple and safe tool in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer.

In addition, there is a long list of other natural substances for which there is scientific evidence of their usefulness in dealing with prostate cancer. This impressive list includes: flaxseed, cruciferous vegetables, vitamin D, soy isoflavones, omega 3 fatty acids, coenzyme Q10, lycopene, selenium, boron, zinc, milk thistle, saw palmetto, vitamin K, ginger, garlic, guinea hen weed (anamu), soursop leaf (graviola), watercress extract and grapeseed extract.

So, ageing men have the opportunity to lower their risk of prostate cancer while at the same time protect themselves from many other degenerative diseases as well.

You may email Dr Vendryes at tonyvendryes@gmail.com or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER106FM on Fridays at 8:15 pm. His new book An Ounce of Prevention - Mainly for Men, is now available at local bookstores and on the Internet.