Tag Archives: cancer

Movember: Eat to Beat Prostate Cancer

Thousands of men across the UK are sprouting moustaches this month, in aid of Movember, an annual event aimed at raising awareness of men’s health issues.

Men are less likely to visit their GP when ill, less likely to access disease screening services and less likely to seek support with healthy-living initiatives such as stop smoking schemes. Consequently, serious diseases such as cancer and diabetes tend to be diagnosed later in men than in women. This is why raising awareness and encouraging a dialogue about men’s health issues is particularly important.

Prostate cancer is a particular focus for the Movember campaign because this disease can be difficult to spot in its early stages. In addition, one in eight men in the UK will develop prostate cancer, making this the most common type of cancer in men.

Lamberts_fish_oil
For those who do not eat oily fish regularly, it may be prudent to supplement with a good quality fish oil supplement.

The prostate, found only in men, is located below the bladder. Its function is to produce fluid to nourish and protect semen. The prostate often enlarges as men get older, causing troublesome symptoms for some men.

Symptoms of all prostate problems include:

  • needing to urinate often, especially at night
  • difficulty starting to urinate
  • straining to urinate or taking a long time to finish
  • pain when urinating or during sex

There is plenty of research suggesting that dietary changes help reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Studies have found that men with a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids in their body had a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Omega-3 is present in oily fish and in smaller amounts in flaxseed and some plant foods. One study of more than 6000 men found that men who regularly ate oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel had a reduced risk of developing this condition. The men who ate no fish were more than twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as those who ate moderate to high amounts. For those who do not eat oily fish regularly, it may be prudent to supplement with a good quality fish oil supplement.

High dairy consumption is linked to an increase risk of prostate cancer as evidenced by a number of studies in this area. One study found that men who consume two and a half serving of dairy each day have a 40 per cent increase in prostate cancer risk (2). This is probably because eating diary raises levels of Insulin like Growth-like Growth Factor which can promote growth of cancer cells. A recent meta analysis reports that soya consumption, on the other hand, is linked with a reduced risk of prostate cancer (3), and so replacing cow’s milk with soya milk is likely to be a helpful measure.

Cancer is known to be triggered by damaging molecules known as free radicals. Antioxidants ‘mop up’ these free radicals and so it seems sensible to ensure that the diet is abundant in rich sources of these nutrients. Men who eat four servings of vegetables a day have a 35 per cent reduced risk of prostate cancer compared to those who eat just two servings. In addition, vegetarian men have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer than meat eaters.

Two supplements that have been widely studied in relation to prostate cancer risk are selenium and saw palmetto. Selenium has antioxidant properties and aids DNA repair, and a recent meta-analysis showed a potential inverse association between toenail, serum, and plasma selenium levels and prostate cancer risk (4). Selenium is present in most multi-vitamin and mineral supplements. Alternatively, just two Brazil nuts each day will fulfil your daily requirement of this mineral.

Saw palmetto is often used for its protective benefits. This nutrient is anti-inflammatory and also helps to prevent the conversion of testosterone to DHT, an agent that promotes prostate cancer (5). Large studies have found saw palmetto supplementation to be beneficial in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BHP) or non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate (6). While more research need to be done in this area, saw palmetto appears to be safe to supplement and has no known drug interactions, making it a worthy of consideration in supporting prostate health.

References

1. P Terry et al, Fatty fish consumption and risk of prostate cancer, The Lancet (2001), vol 357 (9270), pp 1764-1766

2. Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Ma J, Ajani U, Gaziano JM, Giovannucci E. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians’ Health Study. Presentation, American Association for Cancer Research, San Francisco, April 2000.

3. Hwang YW, Kim SY, Jee SH, et al.: Soy food consumption and risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Nutr Cancer 61 (5): 598-606, 2009

4. Brinkman M, Reulen RC, Kellen E, Buntinx F, Zeegers MP. Are men with low selenium levels at increased risk of prostate cancer? Eur J Cancer 2006;42:2463-71.

5. W H Goldmann et al, ‘Saw palmetto berry extract inhibits cell growth and Cox-2 expression in prostatic cancer cells’, Cell Biology International (2001), vol 25(11), pp 1117-24.

6. Wilt TJ, Ishani A, Rutks I, MacDonald R. Phytotherapy for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Public Health Nutr. 2000 Dec;3(4A):459-72.

Share

Folic acid linked with reduced risk of cancer

A new study has linked high intake of folate – including folic acid from supplements – with reduced risk of colorectal cancer.

The study, published last month in the journal Gastroenterology, investigated the link between folate intake and colorectal cancer in 99,523 participants.  These individuals provided information about their diet as part of the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort.

Asparagus
Asparagus is a great natural source of Folate. (5)

Lead researcher Victoria Stevens, PhD, of the American Cancer Society, said that “all forms and sources of folate were associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer.”

Folate, also known as Vitamin B9, is an essential nutrient required for the production and maintenance of new cells, including DNA synthesis and repair.  Because of this critical function, the relationship between folate intake and cancer development has been widely researched.

This most recent study, however, is the first to assess both natural folates (from food) and folic acid (the synthetic form, used in supplements).  It found that both forms of the vitamin were linked with decreased risk of cancer.  Low levels of folate have also been linked with conditions such as depression (2), breast cancer (3) and dementia (4).

Before taking a folic acid supplement it is recommended that you speak with your healthcare practitioner to check that it is right for you. When supplementing folic acid, it is often advisable to take it alongside, or as part of a Vitamin B Complex.  This is because the B Vitamins work together, so taking any one on its own can create a deficiency in the others.

Rich sources of folic acid include foods such as fortified breakfast cereals, enriched bread and fortified soy milk.  Taking a folic acid supplement, or a Vitamin B Complex supplement can help to ensure that you are getting enough of this essential nutrient.

Good sources of natural folate include:

  • asparagus
  • avocado
  • oranges
  • pulses, especially edamame beans, lentils and chickpeas
  • dark, leafy greens such as spinach, turnip greens and broccoli

Including these foods in your regular diet will help to boost your levels of folate.  As this B vitamin is water soluble, you should be careful to preserve this vitamin as you cook your food.  To preserve the folate content of your food, try steaming rather than boiling vegetables, or cook vegetables in soups and stews so that you don’t lose any vitamins leached into the water.

Written by Nadia Mason

References

1. Victoria L. Stevens, Marjorie L. McCullough, Juzhong Sun, Eric J. Jacobs, Peter T. Campbell, Susan M. Gapstur. (2011) High Levels of Folate From Supplements and Fortification Are Not Associated With Increased Risk of Colorectal Cancer. Gastroenterology 141(1): 98-105

2. Karakuła H, Opolska A, Kowal A, Domański M, Płotka A, Perzyński J. (2009). Does diet affect our mood? The significance of folic acid and homocysteine. Pol Merkur Lekarski 26 (152): 136–41.

3. Maruti SS, Ulrich CM and White E. (2009) Folate and one-carbon metabolism nutrients from supplements and diet in relation to breast cancer risk. Am J Clin Nutr 89:624–33.

4. Tettamanti, M. et al. (2007) Low folate and the Risk of Cognitive and Functional Deficits in the Very Old. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 25(6):502-8

5. Image courtesy of Paul.

 

 

Share

The sunshine vitamin: Vitamin D and healthy immunity

New research supports the link between vitamin D and a healthy immune system.  The recent study of almost 7,000 adults in the UK has confirmed a link between Vitamin D levels and the risk of infection (1).

Vitamin D - The Sunshine Vitamin
New research supports the link between vitamin D and a healthy immune system. (5)

Natural sunshine can provide our bodies with up to 10,000iu vitamin D each day.  This ‘sunshine vitamin’ helps to boost the body’s defences by increasing levels of ‘anti-microbial peptides’.  Working like natural antibiotics, these peptides mount an attack against unwanted infections.

During the winter months, infections such as colds, flu and chest infections are common.  It is believed that this increased risk of infection is due in part to the lower levels of vitamin D that we receive in the colder months.

There is however increasing concern over vitamin D levels throughout the year. After all, most of us are careful to protect our skin from the sun during the summer months, a sensible measure to help prevent burning, premature skin ageing and to protect against skin cancer.
The study, conducted by researchers from University College London, looked at the relationship between Vitamin D levels and infection. Higher levels of vitamin D were linked with lower risk of infection.

For each 10nmol/l (4ng/ml) increase in vitamin D, the risk of infection dropped by 7 per cent.  The researchers discovered a further link between higher vitamin D levels and better lung function.

While this particular study was epidemiological in nature, it will be interesting to see how future controlled trials will further our understanding.  After all, vitamin D not only supports the immune system and bone health.  More recently, deficiency has been linked with cardiovascular disease, impaired glucose tolerance, poor muscle development and certain types of cancer (2).  The Department of Health now recommends that certain groups in the UK population should take daily vitamin D supplements (3).  These groups are:

• all children aged six months to five years old
• all pregnant and breastfeeding women
• all people aged 65 and over
• people who are not exposed to much sun, such as those who are confined indoors for long periods

BioCare BioMulsion D
BioCare’s BioMulsion D provides 2000iu vitamin D in just two drops

• people with darker skins such as people of African-Caribbean and South Asian origin

While vitamin D can be obtained in the diet through oily fish such as salmon and sardines, it is generally believed that supplementation is the most viable way of ensuring adequate intake.  A recent European policy document concludes that “only vitamin D supplements or vitamin D enriched food products are truly viable options for optimising the vitamin D status” (4).

Bolstering your vitamin D levels can be as simple as spending some time outdoors every day, while ensuring that you eat vitamin D enriched foods such as breakfast cereals, milk, margarine and soy drinks.  Those who would like to take an easily absorbed supplement might consider an emulsified liquid vitamin D such as Biocare’s BioMulsion D which provides 2000iu vitamin D in just two drops.

 

Written by Nadia Mason

References:

1. Berry DJ, et al. Vitamin D status has a linear association with seasonal infections and lung function in British adults. British Journal of Nutrition. Available on CJO June 2011 doi:10.1017/S0007114511001991

2. Vieth R, Bischoff-Ferrari H, Boucher BJ, Dawson-Hughes B, Garland CF, Heaney RP, Holick MF, Hollis BW, Lamberg-Allardt C, McGrath JJ, Norman AW, Scragg R, Whiting SJ, Willett WC, Zittermann A. The urgent need to recommend an intake of vitamin D that is effective.  Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:649–50. 

3. NHS Choices. “Vitamins and Minerals – Vitamin D”.  Web article. Visited on 30th June 2011.

4. The Standing Committee of European Doctors. Vitamin D Nutritional Policy in Europe.  March 2010. Visited on 30th June 2011.

5. Image Ccourtesy of  digitalart.

 

 

Share