Posted on April 15 2018
This chapter in Dr. Michael Greger’s book, How Not To Die, held particular interest for me because, while I fortunately do not have prostate cancer, I do suffer from an enlarged prostate, which is one of the topics addressed in this chapter. So I am going to start with that topic, because this condition affects millions of men like me (as many as half of all men by the time they are in their 50s, and as much as 80% of men in their 80s suffer from an enlarged prostate, or benign prostate hyperplasia-BPH).
An enlarged prostate is due to excessive growth of normal prostate cells, which causes the prostate to get larger, obstructing the normal flow of urine (because the urinary outlet from the bladder is surrounded by the prostate gland). There are a variety of surgical remedies for the condition, none of which are terribly attractive. There are also an array of drugs designed to help ameliorate the condition (one of which I take daily).
However, contrary to the common assumption that an enlarged prostate is an inevitable consequence of aging in males (remember the overwhelming numbers of American males cited above who suffer the condition as they age), the condition is not so inevitable among males in some other cultures. For example, this condition was exceedingly rare in China and Japan in the 1920s and 1930s. So, the Pritikan Foundation did some experiments on the type of normal prostate cells that grow to obstruct urine flow. They randomly assigned individuals to one of two groups: a “normal diet” group and a “healthy-living” group that was prescribed a strict plant-based diet centered around fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, as well as moderate exercise. The blood of each group was tested, and after only two weeks, the blood of the healthy living group acquired the ability to suppress the abnormal growth of the noncancerous prostate cells. Among the foods most effective in restraining the growth of the prostate gland is flaxseed. Men taking the equivalent of three tablespoons of flaxseeds a day experienced relief comparable to that provided by commonly prescribed drugs such as Flomax or Proscar.
Based on these research findings, and the beneficial effects of flaxseed on numerous other bodily organs, I am going to start increasing my intake of ground flaxseed (regular flaxseeds can flow through the digestive tract without being absorbed by the body) and see if it makes a difference. I have a checkup already scheduled with my urologist this coming August, so that gives me about four months to see if this suggestion helps me and my prostate. If you suffer from the problem, you may want to try this also.
My urologist monitors my PSA (a marker of prostate cancer growth) in an attempt to assess whether or not my noncancerous but growing prostate cells remain noncancerous. Cancer cells grow in an unrestrained fashion, so the growth rate of these cells is a key issue. Autopsy studies show that about half of all males in their 80s have prostate cancer (as compared to the 80% who have enlarged prostates). But, thankfully, even cancerous prostate cells often grow relatively slowly, so even though half of all men in their 80s may have prostate cancer, they typically don’t die from prostate cancer. However, about 28,000 men do die from (typically more aggressive forms of) prostate cancer.
What causes prostate cells to grow? Studies have pointed to a number of potential culprits. Dairy milk, for example. Cow’s milk is full of hormones designed to help a baby calf to grow. Continued consumption of cow’s milk and the growth of certain cancers may be linked due to these growth hormones. In a series of petri dish experiments, researchers dripped organic cow’s milk (eliminating the presence of bovine growth hormone, which is commonly injected into conventionally raised cows to stimulate more milk production) on to human prostate cancer cells. The researchers found that cow’s milk stimulated the growth of human prostate cancer cells in each of fourteen separate experiments, producing an average increase in cancer growth rates of more than 30%.
Cancer of the prostate that remains localized in the prostate gland will usually not kill you. But, if it spreads far enough outside the prostate, your chances of surviving drop dramatically. So, another factor to think about is what causes prostate cancer to spread once it has emerged.
Harvard University researchers recruited more than 1000 men with early-stage prostate cancer and followed them for several years. One of their findings was that compared to men who rarely ate eggs, men who ate the equivalent of just slightly less than one egg per day appeared to have twice the risk of prostate cancer progression, such as metastasizing into the bones. And the only thing worse than eggs for prostate cancer progression was poultry. Men who regularly ate chicken and turkey had up to four times the risk of more aggressive prostate cancer progression. In addition to all kinds of growth hormones given to chickens, cooked meat carcinogens such as heterocyclic amines may be responsible for the additional risk factor.
On the other hand, the Harvard researchers were also able to determine that eating as little as a single daily serving of cruciferous vegetables (brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale) may cut the risk of cancer progression by more than half.
Another factor contributing to the growth of cancer cells in the prostate may be IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1). This growth hormone is designed to stimulate the growth of cells while our bodies are growing and maturing, but then it is supposed to diminish and level out to accommodate the normal bodily function of replacing the approximately 50 billion cells that die each and every day of our lives. However, animal proteins (from meat, milk and eggs) stimulate the production of IGF-1. Eliminating animal proteins from the diet has the effect of significantly reducing the level of IGF-1 in your blood.
But eliminating animal proteins from our diet is very challenging. Is it possible to reduce your risk of prostate cancer by reducing, but not eliminating, the ratio of animal to vegetable proteins (the A/V ratio) in our diets? A group of researchers at the University of Massachusetts designed an experiment to test this idea. They recruited prostate cancer patients into two randomly assigned groups: a “normal diet” group with an A/V protein ratio of around 3:1, and a “healthy living” group that reduced their ratio of animal to vegetable proteins to about 1:1. The healthy living group was able to slow down the growth rate of their cancers. Their PSA’s “doubling time” (an estimate of how fast their tumors were doubling in size) declined from 21 months to 58 months. So, their cancers were still growing, but at a much slower rate. However, in an additional experiment, they found that a vegan diet (with no animal proteins) actually reversed the growth of the tumors.
So, to reduce (or even eliminate) the risk of prostate cancer, reduce your animal to vegetable protein consumption ratio to as low as possible. Specifically, increase your consumption of ground flaxseed and cruciferous vegetables, exercise regularly, and reduce your consumption of eggs, milk and chicken.
And if you think adding the nutrition of 30 fruits and vegetables to your diet every day might be helpful, consider adding Juice Plus whole-food nutritional supplements to your diet, which are available at Objects of Desire Artful Living. Because artful living is healthy living.