Tag Archives: men

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.

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Green tea and male fertility

A new study has found that an extract from green tea affects sperm quality (1). The research, published last month in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, found that low doses of a chemical compound (epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG) which is present in green tea can improve sperm quality.

Sub-fertility among men is common, and numbers of men affected are increasing. Recent data suggests that 1 in 5 men between the ages of 18-25 now have fertility problems linked to semen quality (2). In around 50% of cases, the cause of male subfertility is unknown, and in such cases nutritional and lifestyle measures are often recommended as a means of boosting sperm quality.

In this recent study, researchers exposed human sperm samples to a range of concentrations of EGCG, a chemical compound present in green tea. Results showed that, at low concentrations, EGCG was associated with increased sperm motility, viability, and phosphorylation of proteins controlling cell survival.

The aim of the study was to find out whether the extract from green tea increased the sperm’s ability to fertilise an egg by improving a process called ‘capacitation’. Capacitation is simply a series of biological processes needed to ‘activate’ the sperm so that it can fertilise the waiting egg.

At low and medium doses, the results were positive. The researchers reported that “depending on the used concentration, ECGC/estrogen receptors are able to improve fertilisation potential of the human male gamete, evidencing the specific effects on motility, viability and energy expenditure in human sperm”. In short, the sperm treated with ECGG helped sperm to swim well. It also increased the number of living sperm, and supported essential signalling inside the sperm.

coenzymeQ10
Will CoenzymeQ10 help you?

At very high concentrations, ECGC had the opposite effect. Such results highlight the need for further research in this area.

There is in fact a growing amount of research surrounding the potential benefits of nutrients in boosting male fertility, with previous studies assessing the effectiveness of nutrients such as l-carnitine and coenzyme Q10.

Previous studies support the value of antioxidants in boosting male fertility (3). The high antioxidant value of green tea is well known, and this characteristic may therefore play a role in its fertility-boosting potential. Sperm damage is thought to occur when highly reactive particles called free radicals circulate in the body, causing damage to sperm cells. This damage may reduce fertility by lowering sperm counts or reducing the sperm’s ability to fertilise an egg. For this reason, antioxidants, which fight those free radicals, are thought to be helpful.

Further controlled trials are certainly needed to provide solid guidelines on the benefits of nutrients in treating male fertility. My feeling is that further research will serve to confirm the crucial role for diet and lifestyle in this area.  The European Science Foundation recently reported new figures showing a rapid increase in male reproductive disorders. This indicates that these fertility issues are caused by environmental factors or changes in our lifestyle rather than genetic factors, meaning that they may be entirely preventable with the a natural approach focussing on nutrition and lifestyle.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

1.De Amicis et al (2012) Epigallocatechin gallate affects survival and metabolism of human sperm Mol Nutr Food Res Nov;56(11):1655-64.

2. Male Reproductive Health – Its impacts in relation to general wellbeing and low European fertility rates. ESF Science Policy Briefing 40, October 2010.

3. Showell et al (2011) Antioxidants for male subfertility. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Jan 19;(1):CD007411.

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