May 2002    Vol. 1   No. 5


An article in the April 2002 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Sadao Suzuki found a causal association between a common prostate disease, called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and the intake of more calories, total protein, animal protein, and vegetable fat.1  Data on 51,529 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study was used for this study.  Of the 33,344 men with complete data, 3,523 were found to have BPH.

COMMENT:  Benign prostatic hypertrophy is a disease commonly found in aging men in Western countries. Approximately 70% of men aged 70 years and older suffer with this problem.   By autopsy examination, between 40% aged 50-60 and 90% of men age 80-90 years have this condition.  By age 80 nearly one man in four has undergone treatment to relieve symptoms.  In 1994 nearly 400,000 surgeries were preformed in the US at a cost of $5 billion.  This common condition is caused by overgrowth (hyperplasia) of the prostate tissue to the point of compression of the urethra, causing obstruction of the flow of urine from the bladder.  Male hormones (testosterones) stimulate the prostate tissues and are believed to be the most important factor causing prostate enlargement.  A high-fat, low-fiber diet raises testosterone levels in men throughout their lives.2

Reduced stream, urgency, hesitancy, nocturia (frequent urination at night) and increased frequency of urination are the most common symptoms of BPH.  Recent evidence has linked impairment in sexual function with BPH.  Treatments have also been associated with sexual problems.3  For example, surgery (the standard TURP-- Transurethral Resection of the Prostate) has been reported to cause retrograde ejaculation (ejaculation into the bladder) in three-quarters of men and impotence in 13% of treated men.

So what should men do if they develop symptoms of prostate trouble?



Change to a healthy diet (low-fat, plant-based) so the problem doesn’t get worse.



Treat symptoms like frequency and nocturia with fluid restriction, especially in the evening, and discontinue bladder irritating substances, like coffee.



Take herbal medications like Saw Palmetto.4,5



Use alpha adrenergic blockers, like Flomax (tamsulosin HCl).



Try Transurethral Microwave Thermography (heating the prostate through a catheter).6



As a very last resort, submit to standard surgery (TURP)

Even though a low-fat diet would not be expected to reverse the long standing changes of  BPH, there is one very important health benefit for the prostate derived from a change to healthy diet.  A low-fat, high-fiber diet and exercise intervention has been found to cause changes in the serum of men, which inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells grown in a laboratory.7 Since 30% of men over the age of 50 already have prostate cancer, this scientific finding should cause all men to start taking better care of themselves today.


1) Suzuki S. Intakes of energy and macronutrients and the risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Apr;75(4):689-97.

2)  Dorgan JF.  Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study.  Am J Clin Nutr. 1996 Dec;64(6):850-5.

3)  Brookes ST.  Sexual dysfunction in men after treatment for lower urinary tract symptoms: evidence from randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2002 May 4;324(7345):1059.

4)  Gerber GS.  Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of saw palmetto in men with lower urinary tract symptoms.  Urology. 2001 Dec;58(6):960-4.

5)  Koch E.  Extracts from fruits of saw palmetto (Sabal serrulata) and roots of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica): viable alternatives in the medical treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia and associated lower urinary tract symptoms. Planta Med. 2001 Aug;67(6):489-500.

6) Thalmann GN.  Transurethral Microwave Therapy in 200 Patients With a Minimum Followup of 2 Years: Urodynamic and Clinical Results. J Urol. 2002 Jun;167(6):2496-2501.

7)  Tymchuk CN.  Evidence of an inhibitory effect of diet and exercise on prostate cancer cell growth.  J Urol. 2001 Sep;166(3):1185-9.


2002 John McDougall All Rights Reserved

Hit Counter