Table of Contents
Prostate. There, I said it. Though you may prefer calling it the tubuloalveolar exocrine gland of the male reproductive system. Whatever makes you comfortable. This multi-purpose little gland plays an important role in both the propagation of the species and, later in life, your doctor’s third TESLA Model S®.
Yes, in a man’s Autumn Years, and after a lifetime of service, the prostate gland tends to head south in a jiffy, either enlarging in a benign but irritating way, or gathering cancer cells like a magnet. The fact is, 1 man in 8 will contract some form of prostate cancer in his lifetime1. The in-office “digital check” for structural signs of a troubled prostate is one of the less pleasant indignities of the annual checkup, but the alternative is worse by far. Is there a way to keep the prostate healthy, even as the actuarial tables tempt it to failure?
Plant matter has been shown in clinical trials2 to have a notable effect on prostate health, and a measurable pushback on the recurrence of prostate cancers after treatment. What we're talking about here is a plant-based, or even a tactically plant-infused, diet. Yes, you have to eat the plant matter to get this benefit—simply walking through a garden won't do the trick (as far as we know).
What is it about a plant-based diet that has such a striking effect on this particularly worrisome and statistically bullying form of cancer? The key appears to be the flavenoids that occur naturally in plants.
Don't Bug Me! (Pursue Prostate Health with Flavenoids)
Flavenoids are a secondary metabolite in plants; meaning they are not fundamental to a plant being alive, but are central to the plant’s reproductive acumen and ability to ward off insect herbivores. In the fossil record there are 145 million year-old leaf imprints that show the effect of having been preyed upon by ancient bugs. So the “herbivore problem” has annoyed plants for quite a little while. Their evolved defenses are benefitting humans in a big way.
Flavenoids' clinical effects say a lot about the phytonutrient's ability to address survival-threatening abnormalities in a living organism—be it a daisy or a tax attorney.
Over the busy eons, plants evolved flavenoids to help beat back these insectoid plant eaters—as well as birds and mammals—by making non-essential parts of the plant more attractively edible, by increasing and calibrating flower coloration in order to attract pollinators (the plant’s insect friends), and by warding off bacteria that lounge around in the dirt waiting for a chance to munch on the roots.
So flavenoids are designed by nature to foil plant-eaters of all kinds—yet they are recommended to human plant-eaters as part of a prostate-protecting diet. Ironic? You bet. How does it work?
The French Riviera of Prostate Health Diets
The much-discussed Mediterranean Diet has received a lot of press for its statistical success in holding cancer at bay in those Mediterranean geographies that originated these food combinations. The diet in that part of the world consists largely of fruits and vegetables, potatoes, whole-grains, beans, nuts, seeds and extra virgin olive oil. Meals revolve around these foods. What's the magic? Plants. People in those countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea eat a lot of plants.
The phytochemicals in all that fruit-and-veggie-eating offer properties that do a Mediterranean body good. What's a phytochemical? Technically speaking, a phytochemical is a chemical produced by plants. Boom. It's also worth noting that phytochemicals aren't essential nutrients. So it's fair to call them organic weaponry for the good.
Studies have found that various classes of dietary flavonoids offer anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, anti-mutagenic, anti-aging, cardioprotective (heart- healthy, anti-viral/bacterial AND anti-carcinogenic properties. Flavenoids have also been shown to affect the transcriptional expression of genes involved in cell cycle arrest and apoptosis induction3.
Phytochemicals or "Fight-o Chemicals"? Prostate Cancer, Meet the Plant Kingdom
This epigenetic effect of flavenoids in controlled studies is particularly significant in the realm of cancers. Cancer is a broadly applied medical term that refers to a disease resulting from runaway, uncontrolled growth and division of cells. The natural, predictable, and controllable death of cells in the course of an organism's growth or development is called apoptosis.
Flavenoids' clinical effect on apoptosis-related gene transcription says a lot about the phytonutrient's ability to address survival-threatening abnormalities in a living organism—be it a daisy or a tax attorney.
But you don’t need to pay exorbitant room rates in the South of France to get the benefits of flavenoids. Herbs, fruits and vegetables, green tea, apples, legumes…researchers have discovered around 4000 different flavenoids (and counting) in the plant kingdom.
Like other antioxidants, flavenoids are your cellular bodyguards, peeling damage-causing free radicals off your beleaguered cells and ganging up on toxic metallic ions, both of which are associated with prostate and other cancers. Flavenoids have even been shown to help with cognition and to elevate the mood4. Where to find them, that you may eat them? 10 thingies especially packed with flavenoids are berries, red cabbage, onions, parsely, tea (green and black), red wine and dark chocolate. Go!
Plants Got Your Prostate (a good thing)
So; Flavenoids! It might seem counter-intuitive to think that internal medicine developed by plants to ward off beetles can also help your prostate. But that’s where we are. Hey, it’s all about Nature giving us organic pointed sticks for jabbing the bad guys. Next time you’re enjoying a cup of aromatic green tea, raise your cup in a toast to our patient plant friends, and the 500 million years they've spent carefully developing these life-giving edible meds. Plants, animals; we’re all in this together. But you knew that.