As manufacturers and vendors of nutritional products are quick to point out, benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) or enlargement is common in men over 50, and prostate cancer is one of the commonest cancers. Addressing this market and making use of traditional herbal knowledge as well as research into herbal phytochemicals, vitamin and supplement manufacturers have come up with a range of products designed to promote prostate health. Though the ingredients may have been subject to various scientific studies, no clinical trials have been conducted into the relative efficacy of these products, and it is not thought that they can fight existing cancers on their own. They are of more use in the general maintenance of prostate health.
The many ingredients used in the various products include tomato extract (contains the antioxidant and anti-cancer agent, lycopene); licorice extract (anti-inflammatory); cranberries (protect against urinary tract infections, with a number of other benefits); pumpkin seeds (contain anti-inflammatory sterols; also a diuretic, helping urinary flow; also high in zinc, present naturally at high levels in the prostate); the essential amino acids, glutamic acid, alanine, and glycine (reduce the symptoms of BPH); zinc gluconate (reduces symptoms of BPH); selenium (a powerful antioxidant, with anti-cancer properties); pygeum (maintains healthy cholesterol levels, elevated cholesterol levels being associated with BPH); saw palmetto (relieves the symptoms of BPH, when combined with pygeum); nettle (promotes prostate health); marshmallow (promotes urinary flow and has soothing properties); and other herbs. Internet searches on the above will yield many results. Only a few such links are given below.
Among the many proprietary supplements being marketed are Prostatol, Prostate Care, Prost 8 Palmetto, Dim Palmeto Prostate, Prosta-Vita, and others. There seems to be no data that enables a person to determine which are the most effective.
It is worth noting that epidemiological (population) studies on those who consume significantly larger quantities of tomatoes and tomato-based products have a lower risk of prostate cancer. Moreover, because of the heat applied during the manufacturing process, the lycopene in concentrated tomato products is more readily absorbed by the body than from fresh tomatoes. Tomato paste (23.3 mums/100gms) and tomato ketchup (17 mums/100gms) are the best sources and have a far higher lycopene content than fresh tomatoes (3 mums/100gms). Lycopene is a fat-soluble carotenoid, and there is evidence that tomatoes taken in association with oil are absorbed far better into the body. Studies on rats have indicated that lycopene appears to act in synergy with other compounds in tomatoes. This implies that supplements containing lycopene alone may not be as effective as whole tomato products.
Science Daily – “Lycopene’s Anti-cancer Effect Linked to Other Tomato Components.” A readable report (2003) of the various studies.
Journal of the National Institute of Cancer – The scientific study suggests that whole tomato are far better than lycopene alone in preventing prostate cancer.
The Cancer Project – How lycopene protects against cancer.
“Lycopene” – Wikipedia – An assessment of the research.
“Lycopene” – American Cancer Society – An assessment of the research.
The World’s Healthiest Foods – On the health benefits of cranberries.
Cornell University – “Selenium supplements can reduce cancer rates.”
Innate Response – Manufacturer of Prostate Response.
Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy – A US vendor of Prostatol, Prost 8 Palmetto, Dim Palmetto Prostate, Prosta-Vita, and other prostate formulae.
Vitacost – A US vendor of high concentration Natrol lycopene from tomato extract.
Zinc is a naturally occurring element, involved in a number of bodily biochemical functions. It is found in legumes, brewer’s yeast, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, dairy products, and whole grains, as well as meat, fish, and poultry. In the cancer scenario, it functions as an immuno-stimulant and an antioxidant, helping to mop up the free radicals that can lead to cancer. Zinc deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of esophageal squamous cell cancer. Zinc is found in high concentrations in the prostate gland and is present in prostate secretions, where it assists sperm motility. Zinc is also involved in bone formation and the regulation of neural synaptic signaling. It is present in over 300 enzymes.
Zinc supplementation usually comes in the form of zinc gluconate, zinc sulphate, or zinc acetate. It is involved in the acuity of the sense of smell and taste and is used to help treat the loss of taste resulting from head and neck radiation therapy and the disturbances to taste caused by chemotherapy, although the results of studies concerning taste are mixed. Zinc is also an ingredient of supplements designed to help reduce the symptoms of benign prostate enlargement, common in men over 50.
The recommended daily allowance is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. Zinc supplements, including multivitamins, normally contain 15 mg, to be taken once a day. Zinc elevates the levels of blood testosterone, and studies have shown that consumption of more than 100 mg/day increases the risk of prostate cancer. A dose of 100 mg or more per day can also lead to copper deficiency, nausea, headache, fatigue, diarrhea, and taste disturbances. Because minerals can compete with each other in the body, a zinc supplement should be taken 2 hours before or after foods high in phosphorus, calcium, bran fiber, or phytate. Zinc can also reduce the bioavailability of fluoroquinolone or tetracycline drugs, and zinc supplementation should be taken 2 hours before or 4 hours after these medications.
Zinc is also used to treat diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and macular degeneration of the retina, and to shorten the duration and relieve the symptoms of the common cold (if caught within a day or two, it is believed to inhibit the proliferation ability of the rhinovirus responsible for a cold).
UC Berkeley Wellness Letter – A useful and readable overview.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center – A useful overview.
Linus Pauling Institute – A detailed overview.
Agricultural Research Service – Zinc and prostate cancer.
National Cancer Institute – “Zinc Deficiency Linked to Increased Risk of Less-Common Form of Esophageal Cancer.” Zinc deficiency and squamous cell esophageal cancer.
Selenium is a trace element required for good health. It is incorporated into proteins, forming selenoproteins – significant antioxidants that help prevent the cell damage caused by free radicals, which can lead to cancer. Other selenoproteins are also thought to inhibit tumor growth by enhancing immune cell activity and by suppressing the development of blood vessels to the tumor. Selenoproteins also help to regulate the thyroid.
The soil content of selenium varies considerably throughout the world, and epidemiological studies have linked selenium deficiency to a higher risk of various forms of cancer, AIDS, heart disease, arthritis, and a number of other ailments. Conversely, high levels of selenium in the blood, have been shown to decrease the risk of esophageal, lung, prostate, bladder, colorectal, and other forms of cancer. There is also some indication that selenium is a more effective cancer preventative agent when in association with vitamin E.
The selenium content of foods varies according to its concentration in the soil. The best sources are brazil nuts, whole wheat, whole rice, dairy products, egg yolks, and some meat and fish. Of these, brazil nuts have by far the highest concentration, so long as they are grown in selenium-rich areas. Such brazil nuts can contain more than 500 micrograms per 30 grams, more than 20 times as much as most other selenium-bearing foods. The recommended daily allowance of selenium for an adult is 55 micrograms, a quantity present in less than one selenium-rich brazil nut. However, cancer prevention studies have shown that a daily supplement of 200 micrograms (derived from selenium-rich yeasts) decreases the risk of prostate, lung and colorectal cancer. That’s about four selenium-rich brazil nuts a day. Some experts suggest that a cancer-preventative dose of up to 400 micrograms daily is an acceptable dose.
High levels of selenium are toxic. However, its toxicity also depends on its chemical form. While selenious acid, for example, is usually fatal, and selenium sulfide has been reported as an animal carcinogen, there is no indication that any other selenium compounds are carcinogenic. Some selenium compounds are more easily utilized by the body than others. In general, the bioavailability of organically bound compounds is greater than inorganic forms. There is also some indication that one of the most active anti-cancer forms is Se-methyl selenocysteine (Se-MSC), found naturally in vegetables such as garlic and broccoli. In animal studies, Se-MSC has been shown to induce the apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells, significantly inhibit the formation of new tumors, and reduce VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), thus inhibiting the growth of a blood supply to tumors.
MSNBC – A simple overview from a supplements vendor.
Linus Pauling Institute – A good overview.
Office of Dietary Supplements – An in-depth overview, with references to scientific studies.
Life Extension Foundation – A good overview, including some positive observations concerning Se-methyselenocysteine.
Worldwide Health Center – “Methylselenocysteine: The Super Selenium.” An in-depth article on a vendor’s site, with references to scientific studies.
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