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prostate health

  • Written by Elizabeth Steels, Ph.D.

    The prerequisites for developing benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH) are the presence of testes and age. It is one of the most frequently occurring diseases in men over 60 years of age. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), BPH affects more than 50 percent of men over the age of 60 and as many as 90 percent of men over the age of 70. This translates to a staggering 4.5 million visits to a physician for BPH in the United States in 2000.¹

    What are the symptoms?
    In the initial stages, a patient may experience increased urinary frequency during the day, nocturia (getting up at night to go to the toilet) and the sensations of not being able to empty completely. As the condition becomes more advanced, there is an increase in the obstructive symptoms characterized by the following: weak urine stream, difficulty starting urination, straining to urinate, stopping and starting again while urinating, dribbling at the end of urination, urgency, and pain on urination. If the BPH symptoms are severe, it may result in the inability to urinate. This can cause severe pain and discomfort. In addition, if urine is retained in the bladder for long periods of time, this can lead to urinary tract infections, bladder or kidney damage, or bladder stones.³

    What is the primary risk factor?
    It appears that age itself is the primary risk factor for developing symptoms associated with BPH.

    Is there a link between hormonal changes during aging and benign prostate hypertrophy?

    The exact cause of BPH is unclear, although researchers believe it may be caused by hormonal changes that occur during the aging process.

    • Decreased testosterone levels: One theory is that as a man ages, the amount of testosterone in his blood decreases, leaving a higher proportion of estrogen in his blood. The disproportion of estrogen may contribute to cell growth within the prostate gland.
    • Increased levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT): Another possible theory is that as a man ages there is a hormonal change involving the accumulation of DHT, a by-product of testosterone in the body. If levels of DHT accumulate in the prostate,
    • overgrowth of cells in the prostate can occur.³

    What are the possible treatments?
    Treatment for BPH depends on the severity of symptoms. Medications are the most common way to control mild to moderate symptoms of BPH. Watchful waiting, also known as observation, expectant therapy or deferred therapy, is often the preferred approach for men with mild symptoms who aren’t bothered by them.

    —Pharmaceutical Medications
    The most commonly used medications are alpha-adrenergic blocking agents which work by relaxing the smooth muscle tissue. Since there is a large number of alpha-adrenergic receptors in the bladder, the bladder neck and prostate gland, they cause relaxation and reduced tone, which then allows urinary flow. Although these drugs have been found to be effective, patients may experience side effects including headache, dizziness, low blood pressure, fatigue, weakness, and difficulty breathing. These are due to the fact the drug works on all smooth muscle tissue in the body, not just the prostate. The long-term risks and benefits have not been studied.&sup4;

    The other common drug treatment is enzyme (5-alpha reductase) inhibitors that work directly on the endocrine system. They prevent the conversion of testosterone to the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and as a result reduces the size of the prostate itself. However, while studies have shown a decrease in symptoms it does not correlate with urinary flow rate and volume. In many cases, a treatment period of six months is necessary to see if the therapy is going to work. The side effects include reduced libido, impotence, breast tenderness and enlargement, and reduced sperm count. Again, these effects are due to the fact the drug may reduce the total testosterone in the body and the effects are not restricted to the prostate gland. The long-term risks and benefits have not been studied.

    —Surgical Treatment Most doctors recommend removal of the enlarged part of the prostate as the best long-term solution for patients with BPH. With surgery for BPH, only the enlarged tissue that is pressing against the urethra is removed; the rest of the inside tissue and the outside capsule are left intact. Surgery usually relieves the obstruction and incomplete emptying caused by BPH.1 Surgery used to be the most common way to treat BPH. Today, its use is declining because of new medications and minimally invasive treatments. Surgery is usually used when non-surgical treatments fail or if there are BPH complications.²

    —Complementary Medicines The principle goal of BPH treatment is to reduce excessive cell growth by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone into the more potent hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and so preventing estrogen from attaching to receptors in prostate tissue.

    Some supplements are intended to reduce symptoms while others will provide nutritional support. The combination of glycine, alanine, and glutamic acid can reduce urinary urgency, urinary frequency, and delayed micturition (initiation of flow). Beta-sitosterol may also help reduce symptoms of BPH. Betasitosterol also lowers cholesterol, which is important since high cholesterol levels can contribute to prostate hypertrophy. Flaxseed oil is a good source of the essential fatty acid (EFA) alphalinolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid). It is well-known that zinc is an important mineral for male health. Why? It may be related to the fact that zinc inhibits 5 alpha reductase and therefore lowers DHT production.

    The most well studied herb is saw palmetto (Serenoa serrulata). Saw palmetto is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor that inhibits the conversion of testosterone to DHT in the prostate, has an antiestrogenic effect, and helps improve all symptoms of BPH. Both pygeum (Pygeum africanum) and stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) may also reduce BPH symptoms although research is less conclusive.

    Latest research— UrologicPros
    One of the most recent exciting breakthroughs in this area has been the development of a unique herbal and mineral preparation, UrologicPros™, which has been clinically proven to be effective in reducing the urinary symptoms associated with BPH.

    UrologicPros contains a patented formulation of herb ingredients, crateva and horsetail, which has been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of overactive bladder in men and women with urinary incontinence. In this formulation, it has been combined with saw palmetto, zinc and selenium, which support prostate health.

    In the most recent study, 33 men were asked to take UrologicPros (as an oral supplement) each day for a period of three months. Symptoms were assessed using a diary of urinary frequency (day and night) and the International Prostate Symptom Score.

    There was a significant gradual reduction in daytime urinary frequency over the three months, for those with moderate and severe symptoms. There was also a significant reduction in episodes of nocturia over the three months.

    There was an overall 40 percent reduction in symptoms over the three months. The median reduction (of individual results) was 45 percent with a range from (0–81 percent improvement). The greatest improvement was seen relating to nocturia, and urinary flow (particularly the symptom “difficulty emptying bladder”). The positive effect of the treatment on nocturia was seen within the first month, whereas the urinary flow symptoms improved most significantly after two months of treatment. There was also a significant improvement in quality of life reported as well. At completion of the study, 29 of the 33 subjects (88 percent) wanted to continue with treatment.

    Figure 1: Average daytime urination frequency after treatment with UrologicPros

    Figure 2: Average episodes of nocturia after treatment with UrologicPros

    The inclusion of whole, fresh, unrefined, and unprocessed foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, soy, beans, seeds, nuts, olive oil, and cold-water fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, halibut, and mackerel) may help. It is important to remember that eating organic food helps reduce exposure to hormones, pesticides, and herbicides (which affect testosterone and estrogen balance). Optimal hormonal balance will occur in the absence of refined sugar and flour, dairy products, refined foods, fried foods, junk foods, and hydrogenated oils. There will be less stress on the bladder system itself if the amount of alcohol (particularly beer), and caffeine in the diet is reduced.

    In summary, at present we have a limited understanding of the pathology underlying the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate as men age. There are no specific pharmacological medications specific for the prostate (or drugs that do not have unwanted side effects in the body). Based on its current success rate, surgery should always be considered a last option when all other treatments have failed. However, there is increasing research directed at the role for individual and combined nutraceuticals in the management of urinary tract problems including BPH. Therefore, natural treatments should be considered as the first line of defense on the treatment of benign prostate hypertrophy.

    Elizabeth Steels, Ph.D. is the research director for Applied Science and Nutrition, an Australian based research organization. Elizabeth is a clinical nutritionist with over 15 years in clinical research, natural health and education.

      References
    1. 1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, NIH Publication No. 04–3012, Prostate Enlargement. http//kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/prostate enlargement/index.htm#gland#gland
    2. 2. Mayo Clinic. Enlarged prostate (BPH) guide. www.mayoclinic.com/health/enlarged-prostate-bph/BP99999/PAGE=BP00016
    3. 3. E Drug digest. Begin Prostate Hypertropy. www.drugdigest.org/DD/HC/Treatment/0,4047,550246,00.html&e=14911
    4. 4. Urology Channel. Prostate. www.urologychannel.com/prostate

  • More than fifty years ago, a special extract made from rye and other pollens was first discovered to provide dramatic relief not only from the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), but also from the symptoms of prostatitis and prostatodynia, two other common prostate conditions. The story of the discovery of these health benefits of pollen extract is wonderfully recounted in the book, The Prostate Cure, written by Harry G. Preuss, MD, and Brenda Adderly, MHA. However, the story of pollen extract does not end with its benefits in these conditions or even with its benefits in the area of prostate health. Recent research has shown that pollen extract inhibits the growth of some forms of cancer, that it activates important protective liver enzymes, and that it protects against damage to the heart and may improve athletic performance.

    Focus on the Prostate

    Pollen extract is a special mixture of both water-soluble and fat-soluble compounds derived from various pollens, chiefly rye, and often marketed under the name Cernilton. Most people know of pollen extracts in conjunction with prostate health. This generally is associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (formerly called hypertrophy), which involves a renewed growth in the number of prostate cells late in life.1 Unfortunately, of men between the age of 40 and 59, nearly 60 percent can be shown to already be suffering from benign prostatic hyperplasia. This usually does not present a noticeable problem until after the age of 50; by the age of 80, however, some 85 percent of all men suffer from one or more symptoms of BPH. The primary effect of BPH is a progressive decrease in the ability to empty the bladder as the prostate enlarges and applies pressure to the urethra. The American Urological Association Symptom Index is now a standard assessment for BPH severity.

    Prostatitis is really a catch-all term for several types of prostate problems.2 It always involves inflammation of the prostate and may also include considerable pain, whereas BPH may not involve any pain at all (as opposed to discomfort). Prostatitis is fairly common in adult males and has been classified into four types. Only at most five percent of all cases consist of either acute or chronic bacterial prostatitis, i.e., cases in which infection and the aftermath of infection are the main issues. Nonbacterial prostatitiscomprises 64 percent of cases and Prostatodynia makes up another 31 percent.

    Nonbacterial prostatitis is the most common of the prostatic conditions, but its cause has not been isolated. It is characterized by an unusually high number and activity of inflammatory cells in the prostate. The resulting inflammation resembles that found in chronic prostatitis, but there is no history of infection nor do cultures (for bacteria) prove positive. Conventional medical treatments do not yield good results. Abstaining from alcohol and spicy foods helps in some cases.

    Prostatodynia, which is most common in young and middleaged men, presents many symptoms similar to the above, but lacks the excessive number of inflammatory cells. Just as nonbacterial prostatitis has some symptoms that are peculiar to it, so, too, does prostatodynia. In particular, pain and/or discomfort in the groin, perineum, testicles, lower back and penis seem to characterize this condition. Smooth muscle spasms in the prostatic portion of the urethra and in the neck of the bladder are at work here. The subsequent reflux of urine into prostatic and ejaculatory ducts causes a chemically-induced inflammation. Fatigue in the muscles in the pelvic region and emotional stress appear to be powerful contributory factors in prostatodynia.

    Of these three conditions, BPH is what concerns most men. Prostate enlargement is strongly related to normal aging. Some of the factors involved are quite well understood. Nevertheless, there also is substantial disagreement about other issues. BPH can be called an aspect of male menopause because an increased ratio of estrogen to testosterone is active in BPH just as, conversely, in women passing through menopause the ratio of testosterone to estrogen increases. Testosterone, the “male” hormone, is at its peak during adolescence. It decreases thereafter, and the rate of decrease sharpens by about age 50. The decline in testosterone production typically calls into play the compensatory release of other hormones, which are stimulants to testosterone production. These cannot prevent the decline in testosterone levels, but they can lead to an elevated rate of transformation of testosterone into 5-alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and to the increased binding to and/or decreased clearance of DHT from prostate cells. Testosterone is converted to DHT by the enzyme 5-alphareductase. Ultimately, it is DHT’s actions that cause the enlargement of the prostate. DHT binds to specific receptors on the prostate cells, the alpha 1-receptors. It then is transported into the nucleus of these cells where it attaches to the DNA and ultimately turns on prostate growth.

    How do pollen extracts work? Clinical trials with these extracts covering 12 weeks of treatment generally have produced improvements in cases of BPH and prostatodynia of between 60 and 88 percent when adequate dosages were administered and depending upon the severity of the starting condition. The first mechanism of action is smooth muscle relaxation, something that promotes the ability to urinate as spasms in the smooth muscle tissues are reduced. In animal studies, pollen extracts have been shown to inhibit urethral contraction, which facilitates the discharge of urine. Data in these studies is consistent with the observations that pollen extracts facilitate voiding of the bladder and reduce residual urine.

    A number of clinical studies have shown that the pollen extracts reduce the size of the prostate in those individuals suffering from BPH. These data indicate that pollen extracts should either inhibit the formation of DHT by blocking the alpha-reductase enzyme, or act to block the binding of DHT to the alpha 1-receptor and thus improve the clearance of DHT from the prostate. Either mechanism could be effective in blocking the DHT-induced biological cascade that leads to prostate enlargement.

    Inflammation, Immune Functions and the Liver

    Inflammation underlies a large number of conditions, including several of those improved by pollen extracts. Evidence to support the anti-inflammatory action of the pollen extracts comes from both animal and clinical experience. Three animal studies indicated that pollen extracts exhibit anti-inflammatory activities. The first showed that pollen extracts inhibit the arachidonic acid cascade, a primary generator of free radicals in the tissues. The second indicated that orally administered pollen extracts counteract the inflammatory process found with artificially-induced liver damage in rats. The third showed that an induced inflammatory condition in rodents was significantly reduced by pollen extracts. It has been proven that pollen extracts are active in human subjects against inflammation. As noted already, several clinical studies also have shown that pollen extracts are an effective treatment for the inflammatory prostate conditions prostatitis and prostatodynia.

    Mechanisms of action involving inflammation link pollen extracts to conditions that involve more than just the prostate. It has long been known that pollen extracts modulate the actions of the immune system. Many years ago, researchers showed that the water-soluble fraction selectively inhibits the growth of some prostate cancer cell lines. Later research was published, which showed that a compound found in the water-soluble fraction does not merely inhibit prostate cancer cell growth, but actually causes the death of these cells.3 These results were found in vitro studies (that is, in cultured cells), yet they provide promise for research to come.

    The liver protective effects of pollen extract, which have been researched over the years, have received another boost from scientists in the Ukraine. In this case, the tests were in vivo, that is, with animals using a special extract of beecollected pollen. First, it was established that small doses of x-ray radiation cause oxidative damage to fats in the liver (lipid peroxidation) and that this damage activates antioxidant enzyme protective systems. Next, it was discovered that the introduction of pollen extract into the animals’ systems normalized the activity of the glutathione enzyme system, one of the most important of the body’s in-built antioxidant systems.4

    Immune Functions for the Heart and Recovery

    Surprisingly, pollen extracts may possess the ability to protect the heart against certain types of assault. The ability of pollen extract to protect the cardiovascular system against free radical damage was demonstrated over a decade ago. Now, taking research in a quite different direction, it has been shown that the damage to the heart that can be caused by excess adrenaline also can be reduced by the use of the water-soluble fraction of the pollen extract.5 Researchers admit that they do not have a good explanation for how this cardioprotection is achieved; yet their findings open up the possibility for totally new uses for pollen extract in the future!

    Similar to the cardiac protection afforded is general immune protection. Although primarily known as treatments for BPH, flower pollen extracts have been thoroughly studied for their anti-inflammatory properties and their abilities both to boost flagging immune functions.6 One of the findings of this research is that pollen extracts act as immunoregulators and can reduce immune hyperactivity. The serious reader can work through the earliest literature on the development of pollen extracts in Europe and discover that the early uses of pollen extracts were a) for recovery during convalescence and b) recovery from sports exertions.

    Conclusions
    Pollen extracts have turned out to be surprisingly versatile in their range of health benefits. Along with the prostate benefits, there further are general immune benefits, effects on cancer, the liver, sports recovery and much more.7 Every man aged 50 and above probably should consider a pollen extract supplement as insurance against BPH and other prostate issues. However, given the range and variety of benefits associated with pollen extracts, there is a good argument to be made for men to supplement with pollen extracts for general protection against over-training and or supporting immune imbalance.

    References
    1. 1 F. Hinman, Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy. New York: Springer Verlag, 1983.
    2. 2 E.M. Meares, Jr., “Prostatitis and Related Disorders,” in Campbell’s Urology, 6th edition, ed. by P.C. Walsh, et al. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company, 1992, pp. 807–22.
    3. 3 Roberts KP, Iyer RA, Prasad G, Liu LT, Lind RE, Hanna PE. “Cyclic hydroxamic acid inhibitors of prostate cancer cell growth: selectivity and structure activity relationships.” Prostate 1998 Feb 1; 34(2):92–9.
    4. 4 Bevzo VV, Grygor’eva NP. [Effect of bee pollen extract on glutath one system activity in mice liver under X-ray irradiation]. [Article in Ukrainian] Ukr Biokhim Zh 1997 Jul-Aug; 69(4):115–7.
    5. 5 Polanski M, Okon K, Przybylo R, Frasik W. Cardioprotective properties of hydrophilic pollen extract (HPE). Polish Journal of Pathology 1998; 49(2):109–12.
    6. 6 Samochowiec L, et al., “General immunological properties of fat soluble (Cernitin GBX) and water-soluble (Cernitin T60) pollen extracts,” European Journal of Pharmacology 183, 3 (1990) 906.
    7. 7 Graminex_Clinical_Studies_Index found at http://www.readbag.com/pollenaid-pollenaid-file-graminex-clinical-studies-index.
  • As pointed out last year in a review of pollen extract for prostate support, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, formerly called hypertrophy), involves a renewed growth in the number of prostate cells late in life.1 Unfortunately, of men between the age of 40 and 59, nearly 60 percent can be shown to already be suffering from benign prostatic hyperplasia. This usually does not present a noticeable problem until after the age of 50; by the age of 80, however, some 85 percent of all men suffer from one or more symptoms of BPH. The primary effect of BPH is a progressive decrease in the ability to empty the bladder as the prostate enlarges and applies pressure to the urethra.

    BPH is hardly the lone prostate and sex hormone related issue that can be troubling to men. Aside from prostate cancer, which for most men is so slow growing as to not be life threatening, many men are concerned about low testosterone, which has its own repercussions. Two of the repercussions of low testosterone are a low level of muscle-maintaining free testosterone and elevated levels of estrogen produced from testosterone by a pathway referred to as the aromatase pathway. Fortunately, there are a number of safe natural compounds that can help to regulate both sides of this equation.

    Protective herbs and nutrients have counterparts that increase the risks of various conditions. Some of these potentially damaging compounds are prescriptions given for unrelated conditions and this provides a rationale for being cautious about prescription drugs. What you do not know definitely can hurt!

    PROTECTIVE AND SUPPORTIVE NUTRIENTS AND HERBS

    Omega-3s
    In 2013, experts slammed a claimed fish oil/omega-3 fatty acid intake link to prostate cancer as “scaremongering.” The trial in question purported to find increased risks for total prostate cancer as well as increased risks of both low-grade and high-grade prostate cancer, an increase of 71 percent in this latter category.2 The responses were quick and brutal. One nutritionist (Duffy MacKay, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the for Responsible Nutrition (CRN)) pointed out, quite correctly, that the findings of this study were based on blood level differences so small that “[t]his change [of 0.2%] literally could have occurred if somebody ate a fish sandwich on their way to get their blood drawn.”3 Both the consumers of the low and the high levels of long chain omega-3 fatty acids were within the normal blood range.

    Others pointed out that the findings of the study clearly imply that men in countries with high levels of consumption of seafood, such as Scandinavia and Japan, should exhibit high levels of prostate cancer, yet the opposite is the case. Alan Ruth, PhD, CEO of the Irish Health Trade Association observed, “[i]n a 2010 meta-analysis of 31 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the risks of prostate cancer diagnosis calculated for high fish consumption ranged from a 61% decrease in risk to a 77% increase in risk, and several showed no significant differences in risk at all…In the same meta-analysis, pooled data from four studies on fish consumption and death from prostate cancer (rather than diagnosis of prostate cancer) found a 63% decrease in risk for high fish consumption.”4

    Especially interesting in this dust-up is the recent attempt to rehabilitate omega-6 fatty acids. In pre-modern times, the intake of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the diet typically was in the range of one-to-two, whereas today in the United States it regularly may be as low as one-to-twentyfive, with prostate cancer rates climbing steadily over the last 60 years. In this instance, a headline is revealing: “Corn oil, omega-6 could speed up prostate cancer.”5 Journal article titles are more prosaic, yet just as damning: “A high ratio of dietary n-6/n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids is associated with increased risk of prostate cancer.”6

    Barry Sears, who has written for years on the health effects of fatty acids, both good and bad, tartly comments in his blog, “Omega-3 fatty acids and prostate cancer? Oh, really?”7 Among other things, Sears demonstrates how easily a statistically significant blood reading of fatty acid profiles can be attached to otherwise clinically irrelevant findings. The take away message in this case is that the experience around the world repeatedly has been that prostate risks, especially death from prostate cancer, are lower in matched populations that consume more fish. There is nothing in recently published research that should make us doubt that improving the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in our diets is a good goal at which to aim.

    Grape Skin Extract & Resveratrol
    In many areas in the US and the United Kingdom (Scotland has not yet opted out of the Union), one cannot visit a doctor without being queried about alcohol intake and then the required lecture on the evils of alcohol. The distinction as to the source of alcohol in the diet routinely drops out despite the fact that red wine has been recognized in Europe for centuries as exhibiting various health benefits and little downside as long as consumed in moderation. It turns out that red wine, often thought of in terms of the heart, may benefit the prostate, as well.

    The trick to the studies is that the researchers must work vigorously to screen for the different sources of alcohol over the course of a man’s life. If this is done, then the research is likely to confirm that a glass of red wine per day may be protective against the risk of prostate cancer.8 Less clear is which compounds in red wine are protective. Perhaps many are. A recent study on grape skin extract and resveratrol identified several protective mechanisms of action.9 Some of the factors linked to resveratrol have been known for years, whereas other mechanisms and, similarly, the benefits of other red wine compounds, are being vigorously researched. Grape seed components (proanthocyanidins) are another example of a source of anti-cancer benefits.10 Given the huge volume of papers being published today on the healthprotective benefits of red wine and its ingredients, it is a reasonable conclusion that most men may benefit from one or two glasses of red wine per day consumed with meals.

    Quercetin & EGCG
    The dietary bioflavonoid quercetin is well known to readers of this magazine, as is epigallocathechin gallate (EGCG). Both compounds are considered to be health protective and quercetin, in particular, is known to improve the uptake (bioavailability) and the benefits of many other compounds found in the diet and in herbs. Papers routinely show greater efficacy or even benefits where none initially were found, when quercetin is combined with resveratrol, with sulphorafane, with EGCG, etc. One of the more interesting recent findings is that these combinations sometimes not only can help to prevent the transformation of cells from precarcinogenic stages to active cancer, but also can interfere with or eliminate entirely cancer stem-cell characteristics. Cancer stem cells are the ultimate source of cancer self-renewal, so this action by the combination of quercetin and EGCG is a warm recommendation.11

    Bitter Melon
    Bitter melon has received quite a bit of publicity recently with regard to pancreatic cancer. It would be unfortunate were the exploration to end there. Several researchers have reported that treatment of bitter-melon-related products in a number of cancer cell lines induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis without affecting normal cell growth.12 Researches targeted specifically at prostate cancer have demonstrated that the impact of bitter melon extends to this area.13 Admittedly, bitter melon is not a staple at the American table. Perhaps that should change. See my earlier article, “Going WILD with Bitter Melon for Blood Sugar Support.”14

    Pomegranate
    Pomegranate is a fruit long associated with healing and medicine. Indeed, the pomegranate is on the crest-of-arms of the British Royal Society of Medicine and of many other ancient organizations devoted to healing. A quick look at the PubMed database shows that the keywords “pomegranate” and “prostate” bring up 60 studies. Many of these studies have been promising, especially when pomegranate was added to other ingredients with related and differing mechanisms of action. For instance, in 2013 the polyphenol rich whole food supplement Pomi-T® (pomegranate seeds, green tea, broccoli, and turmeric) was reported to have a direct anti-cancer effect in men with prostate cancer.15 These results were confirmed in a larger clinical trial published in 2014.16

    Thymoquinone and Black Seed
    Few Americans have heard either of black seed or thymoquinone (TQ). The former is famous for healing in the areas in which it grows naturally, meaning much of the eastern Mediterranean through the Near and Middle East all the way to India. Mohammed is reputed to have said that the seed cures every condition except death itself.

    With regard to the prostate, black seed is useful for both BPH and in preventing prostate cancer induction. One of the important ingredients in black seed oil, thymoquinone, promotes healthy apoptosis in prostate cells and therefore helps the body to regulate the size and health of the prostate.17,18 Similar effects have been found in, for example, breast cancer, so TQ has a broad spectrum of applications.19

    Cactus Flower
    A couple of decades back, the herbal extract chrysin was introduced to the athletics and body building world as an answer to improving free testosterone levels and reducing the pathway (aromatase) that transforms testosterone to estrogen. Chrysin has some benefits, as long as one does not expect too much and is willing to focus on the anxiolytic qualities of the compound (found in passion flower). However, much more successful compounds for this purpose of increasing free testosterone, and so forth, have been found. One of these is an extract of cactus flower (Opuntia ficus-indica).

    I ran across this almost a decade ago being sold in Germany and Israel for BPH,20 but at the time could not find a reliable source of supply. Since then, a friend with whom I was working took this item and continued to dig until he found a reliable source that he could market as increasing serum free testosterone levels and reducing aromatase (reducing estrogen production and inhibiting the binding of dihydrotestosterone/DHT.) As my friend writes at his website, based on preliminary laboratory research, “Opuntia flower extract (1 mg/ml concentration) inhibited over 80% of the activity of 5-alpha reductase in human prostate tissue homogenate and inhibited over 80% of aromatase activity in human placenta tissue homogenate.”21 This particular product also contains supporting ingredients, such as an extract of stinging nettle root.

    Some Prostate-Questionable Foods and Pharmaceuticals Now for a few items that men may want to remove from their daily habits or environment.

    • Non-and low-fat milk (but not whole milk or other dairy products) intake by men is linked to higher rates of prostate cancer22
    • Long-term use of statins increases the risk of prostate cancer23
    • Oral contraceptive use is associated with prostate cancer—this refers to these contraceptives getting into the environment at large and not to use by one’s partner24

    Conclusion
    There are protective foods, nutrients and herbs of which men should take advantage to maintain and regain prostate health as well as improve other parameters of health and performance. Omega-3 fatty acids and the active compounds found in red wine (grape skin anthocyanidins and other compounds, resveratrol, grape seed proanthocyanidins, quercetin), green tea (EGCG) and bitter melon are on this short list. More exotic are black seed and thymoquinone as well as cactus flower extract. For the most part, these can be characterized as special foods since they can be consumed over the long term and have few or no downsides even when consumed chronically in large amounts. Indeed, this should be the goal—a little prevention is always worth a whole lot of cure.

    References
    1. 1. F. Hinman, Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1983.
    2. 2. Brasky TM, Darke AK, Song X, Tangen CM, Goodman PJ, Thompson IM, Meyskens FL Jr, Goodman GE, Minasian LM, Parnes HL, Klein EA, Kristal AR. Plasma phospholipid fatty acids and prostate cancer risk in the SELECT trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 Aug 7;105(15):1132– 41. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djt174.
    3. 3. Experts slam omega-3 link to prostate cancer as overblown ‘scaremongering.’ http://www.nutraingredients.com/content/view/print/796071
    4. 4. Ibid.
    5. 5. http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/news/printNewsBis.asp?id=65537
    6. 6. Williams CD, Whitley BM, Hoyo C, Grant DJ, Iraggi JD, Newman KA, Gerber L, Taylor LA, McKeever MG, Freedland SJ. A high ratio of dietary n-6/n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids is associated with increased risk of prostate cancer. Nutr Res. 2011 Jan;31(1):1–8. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2011.01.002.
    7. 7. http://zonediet.com/blog/2013/07/
    8. 8. A glass of red wine a day keeps prostate cancer away? http://nutraingredients.com/news/printNewsBis.asp?id=54898
    9. 9. Hudson TS, Hartle DK, Hursting SD, Nunez NP, Wang TT, Young HA, Arany P, Green JE. Inhibition of prostate cancer growth by muscadine grape skin extract and resveratrol through distinct mechanisms. Cancer Res. 2007 Sep 1;67(17):8396–405.
    10. 10. Raina K, Singh RP, Agarwal R, Agarwal C. Oral grape seed extract inhibits prostate tumor growth and progression in TRAMP mice. Cancer Res. 2007 Jun 15;67(12):5976-82.
    11. 11. Tang SN, Singh C, Nall D, Meeker D, Shankar S, Srivastava RK. The dietary bioflavonoid quercetin synergizes with epigallocathechin gallate (EGCG) to inhibit prostate cancer stem cell characteristics, invasion, migration and epithelial-mesenchymal transition. J Mol Signal. 2010 Aug 18;5:14. doi: 10.1186/1750–2187–5–14.
    12. 12. Nerurkar P, Ray RB. Bitter melon: antagonist to cancer. Pharm Res. 2010 Jun;27(6):1049–53. doi: 10.1007/s11095–010–0057–2.
    13. 13. Ru P, Steele R, Nerurkar PV, Phillips N, Ray RB. Bitter melon extract impairs prostate cancer cell-cycle progression and delays prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia in TRAMP model. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2011 Dec;4(12):2122–30. doi: 10.1158/1940–6207.
    14. 14. http://www.totalhealthmagazine.com/articles/vitamins-and-supplements/going-wild-with-bitter-melon-for-blood-sugar-support.html
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  • Solving the Mystery of the Multivitamin Part III

    This article is the third in the series begun with “Solving the Mystery of the Multivitamin” and continued with “The Special Nutritional Needs of Women.” Here it is observed again you do not need to believe “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” in order to accept that men and women have different nutritional needs. Men lead in eight of the top ten causes of death in the United States. As it is often remarked, because men are more reluctant than women to seek medical care, when they do so, their illnesses typically have advanced to a more serious degree. It would seem that men, even more than women, would do well to adopt defensive measures to preserve their health. However, men should not depend on the supplements used by their wives or women friends. Some preventative measures are strictly gender-specific. The following suggestions are designed to help men take charge of their health while the ball is still in their court.

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