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Men's Health | Keep Prostate Healthy with Onions

The Onion Family Makes a Healthy Prostate

Men who eat garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, scallions, and chives (vegetables of the Allium family) as a regular part of their diets may reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer, according to a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2002;94:1648–51). While consuming these foods has been associated with a reduction in the incidence of stomach, colon, esophagus, and breast cancers, this is the first study to show that eating these vegetables may also lower prostate cancer risk.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, with more than 189,000 American men expected to be diagnosed in the year 2002. The risk of prostate cancer increases with each decade of life; most cases are diagnosed in men over the age of 50. More than one-fifth of all American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes, but only 3% will die from the disease.

The slow-growing nature of prostate cancer has hampered the success of conventional treatments that target rapidly dividing cells. Surgical removal of the prostate, radiation therapy, and drug therapy are used to treat some cases of prostate cancer. However, many physicians have opted to "watch and wait" since these treatments have many adverse side effects and few men will actually die from the disease. Consuming vegetables of the Allium family may add extra insurance against prostate disease.

In this study, 238 Chinese men with prostate cancer and 471 with healthy prostates were questioned about their dietary intake of 122 different foods during the five years prior to the interview. Their responses were analyzed to determine if any single food or food group was associated with prostate cancer risk.

Men who consumed more than 10 grams per day of Allium vegetables had almost a 50% reduction in risk of developing prostate cancer, compared with those who consumed less than 2.2 grams per day. Garlic was the most commonly consumed Allium vegetable, followed by scallions and chives. The most pronounced reduction in prostate cancer risk was seen in men with the highest consumption of garlic and scallions. Although a modest decrease in risk was associated with intake of chives and onions, the results did not reach statistical significance.

Other foods have also been reported to decrease the risk of prostate cancer. Studies suggest eating a diet high in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage may reduce prostate cancer risk. Other studies have shown that lycopene, a substance found in tomatoes, may also have a protective effect. Men who consume large amounts of meat and dairy products have a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer than do men who eat less of these foods. Nutritional supplements that may help prevent prostate cancer include selenium, zinc, and vitamin E.

Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.

Copyright © 2002 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Healthnotes and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.

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