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More Tomatoes, Please

Eating lots of tomatoes – a total of 10 servings a week – could cut the risk of prostate cancer by 18 percent, according to new research from Great Britain. Those 10 servings don’t have to be raw tomatoes or tomato salad – they could include the tomatoes in pasta sauce or on pizza, tomato juice and the tomatoes in baked beans, the study found. Researchers from the universities of Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge examined the diets of some 14,000 British men ages 50 to 69 to reach these conclusions. They further reported that men who ate five servings or more of fruit or vegetables per day had a prostate cancer risk that was 24 percent lower than that of men whose fruit and vegetable consumption averaged two and a half servings a day or less. The antioxidant lycopene found in tomatoes is believed responsible for the lower risk of prostate cancer. In addition, the researchers reported that men whose diets included selenium provided in bread and pasta and calcium from dairy products also had a lower risk of prostate cancer. This study doesn’t conclusively prove that eating lots of tomatoes prevents prostate cancer – just that there is an association between the amount of tomatoes eaten and a lower risk of the disease.

My take? Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant - it is the carotenoid pigment responsible for the red color of tomatoes. In a number of large studies, it has demonstrated a protective role against prostate, colon, and rectal cancer, as well as heart disease. Lycopene is much more available to the body from cooked tomatoes than from raw ones. And since it is fat soluble, you need to eat your cooked tomatoes with some fat to facilitate absorption. That doesn't mean eating all the pizza you can get your hands on. However, it does suggest that homemade marinara sauce would be a healthful staple. I make my marinara with olive oil and keep some on hand in the freezer. If you don’t like tomatoes, you can always obtain lycopene from watermelon, which contains 40 percent more lycopene than an equivalent weight of tomatoes. The lycopene from watermelon is as well-absorbed by the body as the lycopene from tomatoes. (And, fortunately, you don't have to cook watermelon to get the same benefits that you get from tomatoes.)

Vanessa Er and Richard M. Martin et al, “Adherence to Dietary and Lifestyle Recommendations and Prostate Cancer Risk in the Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment (ProtecT) Trial.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-0322

Prudent Diet to Prevent Prostate Cancer

The latest word on this subject comes from researchers at Duke University who found that men whose diets were high in complex carbohydrates and fiber had a risk of prostate cancer that was 70 percent lower than men whose diets were lowest in complex carbs. These findings were applicable to both the African-American and Caucasian men in the study, and spoke to the risk of both low-grade and high-grade prostate cancer. The researchers also reported that high fiber intake was linked to a “significant reduction” in the risk of high-grade prostate cancer, noting that men whose fiber intake was highest had a 50 percent lower risk of high-grade prostate cancer. The findings were presented at a meeting of the American Urological Association. The research team additionally reported that carbohydrate foods with a high glycemic index might increase the risk of prostate cancer among African-American men. The report was derived from an ongoing study at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and included data on 156 men with diagnosed prostate cancer and 274 without prostate cancer.

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Charles Bankhead, “Carbs May Lower Risk of Prostate Cancer,”, accessed May 23, 2014

Walnuts for Prostate Health

Walnuts appear to protect against prostate cancerEating walnuts daily appears to protect against prostate cancer, at least in mice. A new study from the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio showed that after researchers injected the animals with human prostate cancer cells, tumors started to grow. But of the 19 mice that received a walnut-enriched diet, only three developed tumors compared to 14 of 32 mice whose diets did not include walnuts. What’s more, the average size of the prostate tumors that grew in the walnut-fed mice was about one fourth the average size of the tumors that occurred in the mice on the “control” diet that contained no walnuts. The amount of walnuts (pulverized into a fine powder) the mice consumed was equivalent to a human serving of about two ounces or two handfuls a day, reported study senior author Russel Reiter, Ph.D., professor of cellular and structural biology. The study was published in the July 2013 issue of Cancer Investigation.

Russel Reiter et al, “A Walnut-Enriched Diet Reduces the Growth of LNCaP Human Prostate Cancer Xenografts in Nude Mice,” (doi:10.3109/07357907.2013.800095)

New Rules for Beating Prostate Cancer

Keeping your weight down and exercising regularly can lower the risk of aggressive tumors in men diagnosed with early prostate cancerWatching what you eat (very carefully), keeping your weight down and exercising regularly can lower the risk of aggressive tumors in men diagnosed with early prostate cancer. The formula for success, however, requires sticking to more than four of eight lifestyle recommendations designed to improve cancer survival from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). This is the first published study of how well the WCRF plan works. The data shows that failure to follow at least four of the rules leads to a 38 percent increased risk of aggressive tumors compared to men who abided by four or more WCRF recommendations. The researchers, at UCLA, report that the most protective strategy was keeping red meat intake below 500 grams (just over one pound) per week (the WCRF suggests that cutting back to 300 grams per week would be better). Another winning recommendation: limiting calorie intake to 125 calories per 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of food. The UCLA team looked at adherence to the WCRF recommendations among 2,212 men 40 to 70 years old newly diagnosed with prostate cancer. The study was published online ahead of print on July 1, 2013 in the journal Nutrition and Cancer.

Lenore Arab et al, “Adherence to World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research Lifestyle Recommendations Reduces Prostate Cancer Aggressiveness among African and Caucasian Americans,” Nutrition and Cancer, published online July 1, 2013.