Taking Time to Take Care

A look at how a few ounces of prevention can make a big difference in prostate health.

Sometimes, the smallest things in life can cause the biggest amounts of trouble. Such is the case in the men’s health arena. The prostate, a gland that is just the size of a walnut, is the source of tremendous health problems in many men. With more than 50% of men in their 60s and nearly 90% of men in their 70s having an enlarged prostate, it is important for men to practice good preventative care with respect to prostate health (1).

The key to the best health outcome is early detection at a physician’s office and a healthy lifestyle (1). Retailers can help in this regard by educating men about important nutrients for supporting prostate health.

The Facts about Prostate Health

It’s natural for a man’s prostate to grow with age, but if it gets too large, serious problems can occur (1). Three of the most common prostate problems are: prostate cancer, prostatitis and prostate enlargement.

Next to lung cancer, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death in men. Close to 230,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, and is fatal in 30,000 men (1). Unfortunately, most men are not even aware that they have the disease until it’s too late because symptoms are unlikely to appear during early stages. When the disease advances, individuals can experience symptoms that are similar to prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland). Symptoms may also include blood in the semen or urine and/or chronic pain in the thighs, lower back or hips (1).

For men over 50, the most common prostate problem is prostate enlargement, which also is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH can lead to irritation in the lower urinary tract. With this ailment, the prostate grows, squeezes the urethra and causes pain (2, 3).
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So, just how do men respond to these sometimes embarrassing ailments? A U.K. survey determined that six out of 10 men would wait to see if a problem ceased before seeking medical attention, with one in 10 waiting until the symptoms became unbearable before seeing a doctor. Some men would even refuse medical help altogether. Research points out the fact that nearly 25% of men would try to cope with the problem on their own (2).

What’s even more alarming is that most men are unaware of the risk factors for prostate cancer, which include: being age 50 or older, eating a high fat diet, being of African American descent and having a father, brother or son who had/has prostate cancer (3). Men over 50 should regularly receive prostate exams and if a doctor believes it’s appropriate based on certain risk factors, those that are younger should, too (3).

Given lack of awareness about maintaining good prostate health (and how reluctant some men are to seek advice from a medical professional), it’s worth it for retailers to be sensitive to men’s health issues. They should not only be prepared to handle questions in a tactful way, but also have a good supply of prostate support supplements at the ready.

An Ounce of Prevention
Though more research is needed, pumpkin seed oil is said to contribute to prostate health. One recent animal study shows that the supplement may be beneficial for men wanting to lower their chances of developing BPH. In the trial, clinicians determined that pumpkin seed oil, whether by itself or with phytosterol-F reduced prostate growth in rats.

Furthermore, researchers concluded that pumpkin seed oil may “block the testosterone/prazosin-induced gains in protastic weight-to-body weight ratio and protein synthesis” (4). Say the researchers, “Compared with the untreated rats, those in the pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seed oil combined with phytosterol-F showed a significantly lower weight ratio for the ventral prostate and significantly lower protein level in both lobes” (4).

Also, in 2004, a Swiss clinical trial was completed to prove that saw palmetto also was useful in addressing mild to moderate BPH symptoms (5). During the trial, 364 patients who had not previously been diagnosed with BPH and those who had BPH symptoms were tested. Participants took one capsule of a branded saw palmetto supplement (320 mg, Prostasan) daily for eight weeks and the severity of their symptoms was measured using the International Prostate Symptom Score. Men with mild BPH demonstrated a 42% improvement in symptoms, but those with medium BPH showed a 37.8% improvement. However, patients in the severe BPH group showed a 30% reduction in symptoms.

According to a spokesperson for the company that sponsored the trials (Bioforce USA), “While this study has not been published in a journal, it does demonstrate efficacy in the clinical environment. We believe that saw palmetto remains a reliable, effective option for men concerned about prostate health” (5).

Cranberry extract also is said to be an excellent preventative tool for prostate cancer. This tiny berry is a significant source of phytochemicals, which include flavonol glycosides, anthocyanins, proanthocyanins, and organic and phenolic acids. To that end, a study was led by a team from the Center for Human Nutrition in Los Angeles, CA, to investigate how cranberries affect various cancers (including prostate). Using various analytic tools, the total cranberry extract (TCE) was analyzed, quantified and separated into fractions enriched in sugars, organic acids, total polyphenols, proanthocyanins and anthocyanins. And, the antiproliferative effects of TCE against human oral, colon and prostate cancer cell lines were evaluated. Notably, TCE and all fractions showed more than a 50% antiproliferative activity against prostate cancer cells with total polyphenols being the most active fraction (6).

man lifting weights

Men’s Health Beyond Prostate Care

Men’s health goes far beyond that of prostate care. Your male clients may also want to hear about the following dietary supplements:
• Ginkgo biloba, ginseng and epimedium (horny goat weed) for those who want to enhance sexual vitality (1).
• Biotin, silicon, zinc and
vitamin B for thinning hair (1).
• Creatine, amino acids, whey protein, vitamin E and chromium for those who are interested in muscle growth and fitness (2).

1. J. Townsend, “Real Men Take Supplements,” www.functionalingredientsmag.com/article/Mens/men_supplements_.aspx, accessed June 2, 2010.
2. Men’s Health, “The Top 10 Supplements for Men,” www.menshealth.com/men/nutrition/vitamins-supplements/the-top-10-supplements-for-men/article/e50a99edbbbd201099edbbbd2010cfe793cd, accessed June 2, 2010.

Believe it or not lycopene, a nutrient found in watermelon, pink grapefruit, tomatoes and a host of tomato products also is said to prevent prostate cancer. Of the more than 40,000 health professionals surveyed, Harvard researchers found that men who ate more than 10 servings of tomato-based foods daily had a 35% lower risk of developing prostate cancer, versus those who ate the lesser amounts of these foods. However, the benefits of eating lycopene were more pronounced with progressive stages of prostate cancer.

During another trial, researchers found that the risk of developing prostate cancer, more notably, aggressive cancer, decreased with increasing blood lycopene levels. “Men taking 50 mg of lycopene daily had significantly higher level of lycopene. In this study, researchers found that high levels of lycopene in the blood were associated with low prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. High PSA levels in blood are often a sign of prostate cancer” (7).

And, some industry companies offer prostate support formulas that incorporate flower pollen extracts (8). According to one firm, the Swedish flower pollen extract in its formula, “is the same extract shown in a number of clinical studies to be beneficial for the prostate, and specifically for promoting healthy urine flow.” Furthermore, in vitro research determined that the fat-soluble fraction of Swedish flower pollen extract can inhibit the metabolism of arachidonic acid and affects prostaglandin synthesis, which is linked to better comfort. Likewise, in another in vitro study, a water-soluble fraction was believed to influence prostate cell metabolism and regrowth. Animal research also indicates that Swedish flower pollen extract may promote smooth muscle relaxation of the prostate, bladder and urethra (8).

Of interest, studies show that death from prostate cancer decreases among those with higher blood levels of selenium (9). And during a trial that took place in the United States from 1983 through the 1990s, it was found that prostate, colorectal and lung cancer incidence was lower in the group that took selenium supplements (9). Also, the SU.VI.MAX study in France, examined the effects of a supplement package containing moderate doses of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc and selenium compared with a placebo, with respect to diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Of the 5,141 study participants, those who had normal PSA levels at baseline reduced their risk of prostate cancer by half. Among men whose PSA levels were elevated at baseline, however, supplement use did not reduce the incidence of prostate cancer (9). WF   
1. Men’s Health Network, “Prostate Health,” www.prostatehealthguide.com, accessed May 12, 2010.
2. Bioforce USA, “New Survey Shows Many Men Ignore & Don’t Understand Prostate Issues,” press release.
3. National Women’s Health Information Center, “Men’s Health,” www.womenshealth.gov/
mens/sexual/prostate.cfm, accessed May 12, 2010.
4. Y.S. Tsai, et al., “Pumpkin Seed Oil and Phytosterol-F Can Block Testosterone/Prazosin-Induced Prostate Growth in Rats,” Urol. Int. 77 (3), 269–274 (2006).
5. Bioforce USA, “Study Supports Saw Palmetto Efficacy,” press release distributed May 22, 2006.
6. N.P. Seeram, et al., “Total Cranberry Extract versus its Phytochemical Constituents: Antiproliferative and Synergistic Effects against Human Tumor Cell Lines,” J. Agric. Food Chem. 52(9), 2512–2517 (2004).
7. G. Tsang, “Lycopene in Tomatoes and Prostate Cancer,” www.healthcastle.com/lycopene-prostatecancer.shtml, accessed May 25, 2010.
8. Source Naturals, www.sourcenaturals.com/file_center/original/100164.pdf, accessed May 26, 2010.
9. National Institutes of Health, “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Selenium,” http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/selenium.asp, accessed May 26, 2010.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, July 2010 (published online ahead of print, June 21, 2010)