Certain foods and habits have been shown to support a healthy prostate and reduce the risk of prostate cancer. But these tips are not just for men.
I got an email this week from Ian, who wrote:
“I was diagnosed with low grade prostate cancer this year. I started taking a supplement called Pomi-T based on its Amazon ratings and amazing reviews for PSA reduction. It’s just broccoli, pomegranate, turmeric and green tea extract. Any thoughts on this supplement?”
As I wrote to Ian, when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of a medical intervention, I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock in Amazon reviews! But in this case, there is no need to rely on customer ratings because this particular supplement is backed up by at least one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial—which I’ll discuss in a moment. First, just a little context.
How Common Is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men (not counting skin cancer), but most men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. Part of that is because prostate cancer can often be detected quite early through regular screening tests, which include testing the blood for the presence of Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA. An elevated PSA will usually trigger more tests and if prostate cancer is confirmed, PSA levels are also used to monitor the progression of the disease.
The other reason that most men with prostate cancer do not die from it is that many prostate cancers are relatively slow-growing. In fact, sometimes doctors will recommend simply monitoring that PSA score and not taking any drastic measures unless it starts to increase.
A Healthy Diet Improves Your Odds
Although avoiding surgery or radiation is a relief for many men, the “watching waiting” or “active surveillance” can be a little nerve-wracking. Many men look for things they might be able to do to improve their odds.
And, in fact, research has found that men who adopt healthier diets following a prostate cancer diagnosis can often slow the progression of the disease and improve their prognosis. There are a few foods in particular that have shown promising effects, both in lowering the risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer and in slowing the progression of prostate cancer.
Foods that Fight Prostate Cancer
Tomatoes, for example, are rich in an antioxidant called lycopene, which seems to have a particular affinity for the prostate. Tomato and lycopene intake have been linked with lower prostate cancer risk and, for those with prostate cancer, lower PSA levels. Cooked tomato products, such as tomato paste and tomato sauce are much higher in absorbable lycopene than raw tomatoes. Absorption is also enhanced by the addition of a little fat. (Olive oil, I’m looking at you!)
Surprisingly, the supplement that Ian found online did not contain any lycopene. But it does feature four other food concentrates with some research backing them. Pomegranate juice has been found to slow the rise of PSA levels in men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Green tea extract has also been shown to have beneficial effects on PSA levels. Extracts from broccoli and turmeric have also shown promise as anti-cancer agents.
Pomegranate juice, broccoli, turmeric, and green tea are all nutritious foods with lots of potential health benefits. Including more of these foods in your diet is a great idea—even if you don’t have elevated PSA levels (or don't have a prostate at all!)