Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Treating Prostate Problems with Nutrition

Treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (abbreviated BHP, referring to enlarged prostate) with nutrition requires a different approach to nutrition than preventing prostate problems.

Many nutritionists seem to believe that omega-3 fatty acids, like those in fish oil, should relieve already-existing cases of BPH. The only clinical study of the administration of fatty acids to men with BPH was conducted just before the beginning of World War II.

Doctors gave a mixture of both omega-6 (red meat fats) and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil fats) to men with enlarged prostate for 3 weeks. At the end of the study, all 19 men in the study had improved flow of urine and 12 of the 19 men were in remission from all symptoms of the disease.

This does not mean that a daily breakfast of steak and eggs plus an occasional tuna fish sandwich is the best diet for men to avoid BPH. The equivalent of 2 or 3 eggs a week (and no red meat at all) is probably enough to avoid an omega-6 fatty acid deficiency.

Men who follow strict vegan diets or who eat fish or take fish oils on a daily basis who are concerned about BPH should have a blood test including a fasting lipid profile measuring the ratio of arachidonic acid (AA) to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). If the AA/EPA ratio is lower than 1.5—a very rare condition in the United States—reducing the consumption of fish oils or considering the consumption of meat or sugar is indicated. Men with an AA/EPA ratio below 1.5, however, are extremely unlikely to have BPH. Men with an AA/EPA ratio above 15, on the other hand, are extremely likely to develop BPH.

If you eat meat, add 2 or 3 servings of cold-water fish a week or 2-3 grams of pharmaceutical grade fish oil or DHA from microalgae to your diet. Reduce your consumption of red meat to no more than 1 serving a day and your consumption of eggs to no more than 1 a day. Simultaneously reducing omega-6 fatty acid consumption from meat and eggs and increasing omega-3 fatty acid consumption from fish or other sources reduces inflammation in the prostate. Until you have your AA/EPA tested, err on the side of eating too little red meat.

Soy products are also frequently recommended for BPH. Scientific testing shows that consumption of soy reduces the weight of the prostate without lowering sex drive—in rats. Since rats do not get BPH (humans and dogs are the only animals that get BPH), it is premature to suppose that soy helps this condition.

Even strong supporters of the use soy products in the diet maintain that rates of BPH in countries where soy products are an important part of the diet have not been confirmed by hard evidence, and it possible that lower incidence of BPH in these countries is to eating fewer calories rather than to eating more soy. And in countries where soy is common in the diet, it is eaten in small quantities, less than half an ounce (15 grams) a day. Just a little soy would be enough.

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