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Some Prostates Are Larger than Others

Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH—an enlarged prostate gland—affects 80% of older men, but like many other Western chronic diseases it appears to be a consequence of our diet.

September 20, 2012 |
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If a healthy diet can slow down the abnormal growth of prostate cancer cells, how about the abnormal growth of normal prostate cells? Benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH, enlargement of the prostate gland, which surrounds the urethra as it exits the bladder. If the gland gets too big it can cut down on the normal flow of urine. So you can be left with hesitant flow, a weak stream, inadequate emptying of the bladder, so you have to keep getting up at night drain off as much as you can at a time. Can leave you dribbling, irritated Can lead to urine retention, so you got a stagnant pool in there that can get infected. Ejaculation problems. In the Untied states, it affects about 50% of men in their 50s; 80% of men in their 80s—it's an epidemic!. 16 million American men

And then, it tends to just get worse, growing larger by the day. A billion dollars a year are spend on drugs to treat it, another billion on supplements. Surgery is up next, lots of different rotorooter-type techniques with innocent sounding acrynyms like TUMT, TUNA, and TURP disguising the rather unpleasant reality. The T's stand for transurethral, meaning up the penis, with an instrument that looks like this—a resectoscope. Then you’re left with words like microwave thermotherapy and needle ablation. They just tunnel up there and start burning. Sometimes they use lasers to burn out a shaft. And these, are the.. “minimally invasive” options. The gold standard remains Transurethral resection of the prostate where they just go up there and core it out with a loop of wire. Side effects include: "postoperative discomfort." Ya think? …

There’s got to be a better way. It's so common in the Western world that most doctors just assume it's just an inevitable consequence of aging. But let’s look around the world. In China, a medical college in Beijing reported there was not 80% of the population affected, but about 80… cases, period. 84 cases over a 15 year timespan. It used to be considered a rare occurrence in Chine, but the incidence of both BPH and prostate cancer started “rising quickly”, and now, the incidence of prostate enlargement in China is similar to that in developed countries. Why? Well the researchers suggest its for the same reason as their skyrocketing cancer rates, a shift from their more traditional plant-based diet to one with more animal protein and fat. So BPH may be like heart disease, a natural consequence not of aging, but of eating an unhealthy diet. It's may only be standard to get an enlarged prostate and die of a heart attack for those eating the standard American diet.

People eating healthy diets, may be familiar with TVP, textured vegetable protein (used for making a mean veggie chili) blissfully ignorant, that for others, the acronym may stand for transurethral electrovaporization of the prostate.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

The reference to diet affecting the growth of prostate cancer is covered in Tuesday's Developing an Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay, with a follow-up in yesterday's video-of-the-day Is It the Diet, the Exercise, or Both?. Until today I only had one BPH video, Just the Flax, Ma'am, in which flax seeds were found to work as well as the leading drug without any of the adverse side effects. In tomorrow's video-of-the-day, Prostate Versus Plants, I'll explore other foods that have been found to help. Then on Monday, Prostate Versus a Plant-Based Diet, will replicate the prostate cancer experiments with normal prostate cells to see if eating healthier can also slow their growth. I have more than twice as many videos on women's health compared to men's health, but these next few days will help close the gap!

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Treating an Enlarged Prostate With DietVegan Men: More Testosterone But Less Cancer, and Flaxseeds for Prostate Cancer

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

    The reference to diet affecting the growth of prostate cancer is covered in Tuesday’s Developing an Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay, with a follow-up in yesterday’s video-of-the-day Is It the Diet, the Exercise, or Both?. Until today I only had one BPH video, Just the Flax, Ma’am, in which flax seeds were found to work as well as the leading drug without any of the adverse side effects. In tomorrow’s video-of-the-day, Prostate Versus Plants, I’ll explore other foods that have been found to help. Then on Monday, Prostate Versus a Plant-Based Diet, will replicate the prostate cancer experiments with normal prostate cells to see if eating healthier can also slow their growth. I have more than twice as many videos on women’s health compared to men’s health, but these next few days will help close the gap!

    If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

    • Jo

       Thank you Dr. Greger! I’ve been encouraging my boyfriend to … um, masturbate to decrease his prostate size (as discovered/researched on the TV show “The Doctors” website.

      He’s battling bladder cancer, and apparently had an enlarged prostate during his last TURBT (trans-urethral resection of a bladder tumor) that left him in more pain than needed — the doctors, residents and interns had to use multiple catheter tubes to get the right fit.

      Am looking forward to your other videos in this series.

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      As you have probably discovered in your own practice.  I have many patients who have BPH and guess what.  The ones who change to a plant based diet always improve there ability to urinate and many reverse their frequency and urgency problems eliminating their need for drugs such as Proscar and Flowmax.
      The same goes for ED.  I have many men who have problems with erectile dysfunction and those who change to, and follow, the strictest low-fat, Whole Food Plant Based diets have the most freedom when it comes to having spontaneous sexual encounters without the use of drug foreplay.
      ;-}

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

    Thanks for another great video. Note: the link to this page from the Youtube video is incorrect.

  • Veggie247

    It would be interesting to know for this and other conditions brought about by poor diet how reversible they are. My understanding from reading Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s work is that inflammation of the circulatory system can be reversible rapidly (e.g., starting at six weeks from initiation of a healthy diet), but the prospects for cancer and perhaps BPH as well as are more gloomy (though I’d also hazard a guess that switching to a healthy diet could help prevent worsening of the condition or slow its progression).

    Huge thanks to Dr. Greger for posting these videos. My family and I are hooked on them!

  • Thea

    This video had me squirming and I’m not even male.

  • R Ian Flett

    Very interesting and well presented. I look forward to the rest.
    With the latest ultrasound equipment you can have your prostate volume measured accurately, quickly, and cheaply without even removing your pants. These ultrasounds have also uncovered a wide variation in family physicians’ ability to estimate BPH via a DRI. It really pays to get second opinions.

    The Asian epidiemiological evidence certainly supports the diet theory, but exactly what it is in the diet is not so clear.  I’ve found amongst friends and myself who have recently had these ultrasounds that there is no justice. The smallest volume by far was a friend who has eggs and bacon every day for breakfast and meat and few veg for most meals. Meanwhile the vegetarian/exercisers had expanded prostates. Not exactly good science, but a surprising result.

    We know that genetics plays a big part, but research has not yet unravelled the critical components of the Western diet that most promote BPH. Soy and sugar are big variables in the East/West comparison. Recent studies have played down the effectiveness of lycopene and saw palmetto supplements. A German urologist friend swears by stinging nettle (Urtica Dioica), yet non German studies rate it poorly.

    Inflammation is certainly a candidate and the Western sexual revolution from the 60s onwards may also be an important inflammatory variable through long term undetected STIs. It’s a tough call. Dr Greger is right to call it an epidemic and an expanding prostate with age should not be considered ‘normal’ despite the fact that it’s statistically normal.

  • Rick

    Can eating a plant based diet improve the symptoms of BPH, or is it too late?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

       Stay tuned Rick!

  • Guest

    I see old men (80´s) in my family are having the prostate removed. They eat healthy although as argentines we eat meat (not as much as some time ago). I won´t go vegetarian but would cosider improving diet/adding supplements in case if later in life I develop BHP. It seems Drs prefer to operate if the patient do not respond to drugs and prevent future problems and to avoid the risks of surgery in old age. Of course there is money involved. This is like tonsilectomy or appendixsectomy in the 60´s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joy.inpagosa Joy InPagosa

    what about bladder cancer?

  • Adamtgardener

    I love your humor…realizing that you have a task of teaching through studies…and can offer no “medical” advice to people attempting to understand their “enigmas” in how to get out of their disease…I would like to add some common sense to all this “stuff” about the prostate.

    In the human body is what I refer to as the forgotten blood flow. It doesn’t move “blood” through veins, arteries and capilaries it moves the blood plasma through the lymph system. This little known circulatory goes everywhere and is responsible for critical functions to eliminating toxic buildup in key organs…especially the male prostate and the female mammary organs. The lymph collects around these two “reproductive” organs to facilitate keeping “things” as pure as possible. Likewise, the lymph nodes along this circulatory system are key and essential to identifying and eliminating cancer cells. 

    Overwhelmed by the sad diet with its overwhelming use of animal fat rather than rich, wonderfully pure, whole, organic plant oils…this system gets backed up and before you know it cancer is taking hold in all kinds of places. Keeping this circulatory system clear, clean and functioning optimally is as easy as moving to a organic plant based diet, exercise and skin brushing. 

    Skin brushing daily or at least with some frequency is even more important that a person’s daily ritual of bathing or showering. This routine should be common knowledge in our culture and it is not. It becomes even more vital when people continue to refuse to change their diets in the face of enormous evidence that a change in diet is effective at many levels.

    • Adamtgardener

      As a continued footnote to exercise…the reasoning behind the success of exercise and a stronger ability to fight off cancer cells is that strenuous exercise…exercises the lymph vessels and nodes…causing that system to function more efficiently. A primary function of lymph nodes is to identify, isolate and destroy cancer cells. But the nodes and vessels need cleaning and that is where exercise is so important in doing this. Especially when skin brushing is so little understood…but then so is the interplay between exercise and its powerful effects on cleaning the lymph system.

  • WholeFoodChomper

    Like Frank below, I am also interested in hearing what your opinion is regarding TVP and other isolated soy proteins. I have just finished reading “The Fat Vegan” chapter in Dr. McDougall’s _The Starch Solution_ and he is pretty clear about staying away from the stuff: “Removing meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, and dairy are well recognized dietary changes that lower IGF1 levels. Isolated soy proteins should be added to the top of that list.” What do you think the scientific evidence indicates? Is it safe to eat TVP and isolated soy proteins?