What is BPH?
BPH is a benign (non-cancerous) swelling of the prostate, which obstructs the flow of urine from the bladder, creating uncomfortable symptoms such as incomplete emptying of the bladder (and the consequent feeling that you constantly need to go to the loo), a weak urine stream, and getting up several times a night for an unsatisfying pee.
Who gets it?
Men. Mostly men over 50, as it is caused by age-related inflammation of the prostate cells, or an increase in the number of prostate cells. It is possible, however, that dietary and lifestyle factors that promote inflammatory responses within the body will worsen the severity of the symptoms experienced.
What can diet do?
The highest rates of prostate disease are observed in Western countries such as the United States, whereas the lowest rates are seen in Asian countries such as Singapore 1,2. When men move from Asian countries to Western countries and consume a typical high fat Western diet, their chances of getting prostate disease rise3, and therefore it is worth considering that diet may be contributing to prostate disease. There is some indication, for example, that a diet poor in vegetables and pulses may have an unfavourable effect4.
Munch on these
An American study has shown that men who have a high intake of vegetables and fruits, especially those rich in betacarotene, lutein and vitamin C have a reduced risk for BPH5. So eat all the green, leafy vegetables, sweetcorn, yellow and orange-coloured vegetables such as peppers, kiwi fruit and grapes, to get these nutrients. Don’t boil your vegetables mercilessly, because you’ll lose the vitamin C, and eat both your fruit and veg when fresh rather than leaving them to go limp and mouldy before you get around to them, as they lose their nutrient content with age as well as heat.
Another study showed that eating four or more servings of vegetables daily reduced BPH risk by 32%, and eating more fatty foods increased the risk. Eating red meat daily increased the risk of BPH by 38%6.
According to the Healthy Eating: Prostate Care Cookbook by Professor Margaret Rayman, Kay Gibbs and Kay Dilley focusing on cruciferous vegetables and the allium family is beneficial7. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage are all included in this range, as are kale, kohlrabi, watercress, and radishes, along with leeks, onions and garlic. Plenty there to spice up your meals.
Eat zinc-rich foods too, as zinc has plenty of scientific back-up with regard to the health of the prostate8. Shellfish, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, pecan nuts, fish and eggs can help you out here. Alcohol interferes with zinc uptake, so keep it to a minimum. Saturated fats aren’t good for any aspect of health, but certainly not the prostate7, so get your healthy fats from nuts, seeds and fish (of the un-fried variety).
 Zhu Y-P et al. Asian Journal of Andrology 2009; 11: 104-108
 Cheng I et al. Cancer Epidemiology 2005; 14: 1692-1696
 Tymchuk CN et al. Journal of Urology 2001; 166: 1185-9
 Bravi BF et al. Food groups and risk of benign prostatic hypertrophy Urology, 2006, vol. 67, pp. 73–79
 Rohrmann S et al. American J Clin Nutr 2007; 85: 523-529
 Kristal AR et al. American Journal of Epidemiology 2008; doi: 10. 1093/aje/kwn389.
 The Prostate Care Cookbook, Professor Margaret Rayman, published by Kyle Cathie
 Leake A et al. J Steroid Biochem 1984; 20: 651-5, and Acta Endocrinol 1984; 105: 281-8