Tomatoes & prostate cancer


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Tomatoes as well as containing healthy vitamins, minerals and fibre contains a group of pigmented chemicals called carotenoids particularly lycopene and beta-carotene. The naturally occurring pigments are also found in chillies, peppers, carrots and other colourful foods. Unlike other antioxidants carotenoids such as lycopene are not destroyed by the cooking process, so although they are only found in relatively small quantities in tomatoes, higher concentrations can be found in tomato sources and pastes. Some studies have shown that people with a high intake of lycopene containing foods have a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Caution should be taken, however, regarding taking carotenoids in the form of supplemented tablets. A substantial European study evaluated a large group of individuals who had a high risk of developing lung cancer (heavy smokers or previous cancer of the throat). They were given carotenoid supplements in the form of alpha-tocopherol and beta carotene. The trial demonstrated an elevated risk of lung and prostate cancer! In another laboratory experiment, this time in rats with implanted prostate cancer, half had their diet supplemented with dried tomato powder and the other half with pure lycopene. After only a few weeks there was a measurable difference in the growth rate of their tumour in favour of the natural tomato powder but not the pure lycopene. Another large human dietary prevention study combined beta-carotene with retinol (Vitamin A), and showed complex but fascinating results which probably provide the best insight to date on the whole supplementation story. In this eloquent study, people who started the trial with naturally low blood levels of beta-carotene had lower levels of prostate cancer after years of beta-carotene supplementation. Those people who had high initial levels beta-carotene following supplementation ended up with a higher risk of cancer, particularly prostate. This trial provides a clear take home message - correcting a natural or acquired deficit is beneficial, but too much of a good thing such as a single anti-oxidant is harmful.

 Other trial evidence:  A randomised study of 93 volunteers with early prostate cancer from the USA, who for various reasons had opted not to undergo conventional therapies. They were randomly assigned to intensive nutritional counselling and lifestyle changes, or simple active surveillance. In the 47 patients randomly assigned to lifestyle, they changed to a vegan diet with tomatoes supplemented with soy, vitamin E, fish oils, selenium and vitamin C. The physiotherapist guided them into a moderate exercise program requiring at least thirty minutes of walking six days a week. They also embarked on a number of stress management techniques such as yoga and massage. The PSA decreased at twelve months in the intervention group by 4%, but increased in the control group by 6%. When this difference was analysed independently by scientific statisticians, it was shown to be highly significant. In other words it was a difference, which was very unlikely to have occurred by chance (greater than 1:50 odds) ൴ another way; everyone believed it.

 The trial had another intriguing twist. A blood sample was taken from all patients at three monthly intervals. After removing the blood cells, the serum was added to sheets of living prostate cancer cells grown in culture dishes in a laboratory. Serum from the intervention group caused 70% of the laboratory prostate cells to stop growing, whereas serum from the control (non intervention group) only inhibited growth in 6% of cells. This eight-fold difference (70% v 6%) was highly significant and again statistically robust (less than 1:100 odds that it happened by chance). Furthermore, changes in PSA and cell line growth inhibition strongly correlated with the degree of lifestyle changes.

Carotenoids and anti-oxidants, are also found in a wide variety of dietary sources. Foods which naturally contain a high percentage of antioxidants have more recently been nick named ᠨref="">superfoods͊The section on diet and prostate gives an overview on the the foods recommended and not recommended after prostate cancer.











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