More on Natural Prostate Protection

Healthnotes Newswire (February 14, 2008)—Lycopene—a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes—has gained notice for its role in strengthening the immune system, preventing macular degeneration and cardiovascular disease, and for fighting cancer. Findings from several studies suggest that lycopene supplements and eating tomatoes and tomato-based foods may protect against prostate cancer. Now a new study suggests that lycopene supplements might slow prostate gland enlargement and reduce symptoms in men with benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH).

BPH, a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland that affects many men over 50 years old, causes symptoms ranging from a weak urinary stream and frequent urination (especially at night), to severe and painful urinary urges. Although there does not appear to be any relationship between BPH and prostate cancer, hormonal changes that occur with aging might contribute to both.

The new study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, included 37 men between ages 45 and 70 with BPH. They received either a supplement providing 15 mg of lycopene per day or placebo for six months. At the end of the study, the men who took lycopene had no change in the estimated size of their prostate glands. In contrast, the men who did not take lycopene experienced increasing enlargement of their prostate glands. Taking lycopene was also associated with greater improvement in BPH symptoms.

“This study provides early evidence that lycopene might help men with BPH by slowing the enlargement of the prostate gland and reducing symptoms,” commented study coauthor Hans-Konrad Biesalski of the Institute of Biological Chemistry and Nutrition at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany. “For the majority of men who experience mild symptoms of BPH, eating more tomatoes and tomato-based foods is a safe and inexpensive way to possibly modify the course of their condition.”

Lycopene is one of the reasons that tomatoes have a rich red color. It’s a pigment in the antioxidant carotenoid family. Small amounts of lycopene are also found in watermelon, pink grapefruit, and guava.

Three raw tomatoes or 1/2 cup of tomato sauce provide about the same amount of lycopene as the supplements used in this study. People who can’t eat tomatoes or don’t like them would need to eat 10 ounces of watermelon or 6 1/2 pink grapefruits to get a similar amount. Men with BPH might also consider adding soy foods, onions, and garlic to their regular diets, and getting plenty of exercise to stave off increasing enlargement and worsening symptoms.

(J Nutr 2008;138:49–53)

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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