US Doctors Uncover New Findings on Prostate Health

Nutrients are found to play a large role in prostate health.

Certain prostate complications can cause not only significant discomfort but also urinary tracy infection, incontinence, or worse (Well-Connected 1998). Because of this, more than 300,000 men in the United States alone undergo prostate operations (Wein 2002).

An enlarged prostate can be caused by an excess of dihydrotestosterone (DHT). which causes prostate cells to keep growing. Research suggests, however, that nutritional support --including Cucurbita pepo, saw palmetto, lycopene, Pygeum africanum, and more -may hold keys to maintaining a healthy prostate.

A New View of Antioxidant Nutrients

Even though research is still in preliminary stages, selenium is a vital trace mineral that appears to have quite a strong effect on the prostate gland. In 1998, an important study headed by Dr. Larry Clark of the University of Arizona shed new light on selenium's prostate-boosting powers. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 974 men with a history of prostate complications were given either selenium or a placebo for an average of four and one--half years. At the end of the trial, selenium was associated with enhanced prostate health: Only 13 cases of prostate problems were noted in the selenium group compared with 35 cases in the placebo group. Dr. Clark's team concluded that the selenium group had experienced a significant improvement in prostate health (Clark 1998).

An ingredient often used in conjunction with selenium is vitamin E. University of Rochester researchers recently shed light on vitamin E's prostate-aiding abilities. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, these researchers found that vitamin E can inhibit two of the body's harmful proteins-proteins that sabotage prostate health. These harmful proteins are prostate-specific antigen and the protein that attaches to the male hormone androgen. When exposed to vitamin E in the laboratory, the levels of these two proteins decreased in prostate cells. Research like this suggests great promise for the use of vitamin E for prostate concerns (Lange 2002).

Another recent study highlights the advantages of lycopene, a carotenoid derived from tomatoes. Researchers found that frequent consumption of tomato products was associated with a lower risk of prostate concerns (Giovannucci 2002). Clinical studies have suggested that the strongest, known dietary risk factor for prostate cell damage is lycopene deficiency, as clinically reflected in reduced intake of tomato products (Mucci 2001).

The Seeds of Discovery

Cucurbita, more commonly known as pumpkin seed extract, is among the most promising of these nutrients and has performed well in many laboratory tests. One of the first human trials was published in the British Journal of Urology. That study involved 53 participants in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial who were given either an extract of Cucurbita and saw palmetto or else a placebo (dummy extract) over a three-month period. At the end of the test, urinary flow and rate, void time, and residual volume all significantly improved in the treatment group (Carbin 1990). In fact, the German urology journal Der Urologe published an encouraging report regarding the effects of pumpkin seed, saw palmetto berry extracts, nettle extract, and other plants on prostate health. This review article concluded: "There are several new clinical studies which demonstrate a significant benefit compared to [a] placebo.... Based on these results, the use of [certain botanical] agents ...seems to be well justified" (Bracher 1997).

In 2000, three German researchers conducted one of the most notable studies on pumpkin seed extract's prostate-assisting capabilities. The study tested the utility and safety of pumpkin seed extract in 2,245 participants over a 12-week period. At the end of the testing period, over 40┬░Io of the men reported an increase in prostate health and in their overall quality of life (Friederich 2000). The scientists concluded that Cucurbita facilitates an efficient means of maintaining prostate health, especially when taken in the earliest stages of possible complications (Friederich 2000).

Botanicals Nourish the System

Two additional nutrients that may promote a healthy prostate are Pygeum and Urtica dioica (nettle). A report in Current Therapeutic Research noted that published clinical data on Pygeum from 2,262 participants over 25 years showed that Pygeum is an "exceptionally well-tolerated" approach to prostate health (Andro 1995). Some researchers suggest Urtica may enhance Pygeum. Polish researchers who performed a double-blind study gave Urtica a glowing notice.

They gave 134 men with prostate-related concerns a preparation that combined Urtica with Pygeum. Subsequently, the subjects' prostate health was significantly improved after only 28 days and then further improved after 56 days (Krzeski 1993).

Reap the Benefits of Scientific Research

Based on the wealth of international findings on prostate-supporting nutrients, it increasingly appears these nutrients can. play a key role in the maintenance and promotion of prostate gland health. Here in the United States, now we are only beginning to understand the breadth of this fascinating and promising approach to prostate health.

The author is a board-certified urologist living and practicing in Arizona. He graduated from Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, West Virginia. From there, he interned at Ohio State University, where he also spent his residency and was a faculty member. A member of several professional societies, Dr. Byard is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and has served as Principal Investigator for several research studies.

Courtesy By: MARK A. BYARD, M.D.

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