If you’re male and have yet to be affected by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), the chances are that sooner or later you will be. Over 90% of 80 year-old men suffer from an enlarged prostate, with symptoms usually appearing well before this age. So there’s much to be gained from discovering which foods and supplements are effective at delaying prostate enlargement, the symptoms of which are really troublesome … :
The severity of these symptoms can vary according to how much the prostate has enlarged – it can expand to up to 7 times its original size and weight (around 20g!). The most effective supplements are therefore those designed to interrupt or slow down this enlargement, and in addition, improve existing symptoms.
Here, in order of relevance, are the best supplements for the prostate as suggested by the scientific literature:
A mix of plant sterols found in Nature, beta-sitosterol is without doubt the most scientifically-supported compound for treating benign prostatic hyperplasia. Not only has beta-sitosterol been shown in almost all relevant clinical trials (1-5) to relieve each of the symptoms associated with BPH, but in addition, these benefits appear to continue long after supplementation stops (6). It may act by inhibiting the activity of 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
The correct dose: 60mg-180mg of beta-sitosterol a day taken between meals (this increases its absorption), that’s 1-3 capsules of Beta-Sitosterol 60 mg.
Saw palmetto is a plant that contains sterols, particularly beta-sitosterols. The majority of clinical trials (7-14) have shown that supplementing with extract of saw palmetto may significantly improve urinary flow and many other measurable symptoms of prostate problems. It has two major advantages over drugs: it does not cause any side-effects and does not alter levels of PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen), a molecule secreted by the body which serves as a marker for detecting prostate cancer.
The correct dose: 320mg a day of an extract standardised to 85-95% fatty acids and sterols, ideally in the form of softgels.
Pollen is the male seed produced by flower stamens. Interestingly, grass cells have demonstrated benefits in relieving prostate symptoms. While the scientific literature is not quite as conclusive as it is for phytosterols, a meta-analysis has nonetheless determined that extract of rye grass pollen is effective at reducing nocturia (night-time urination) (15). Four clinical trials (16-19) have since produced similar observations, one of which even showed that 750mg/day of grass pollen extract could slow down the progress of BPH.
The correct dose: 800-1000mg a day of pollen extract, divided into three doses taken with each meal, for a period of one month, followed by a lower dose over subsequent months.
Pygeum bark is a natural compound used for thousands of years in traditional African medicine for treating a wide range of urinary problems. And once again, science seems to support this empirically-validated use: according to around 20 clinical trials, some of which were albeit of arguable methodological quality, it may help reduce frequency of urination, volume of residual urine and night-time waking to urinate. It is the triterpenes in pygeum bark which appear to be responsible for these benefits: they reduce inflammation in the prostate and may inhibit the growth factors that cause the prostate to enlarge (20-21).
The correct dose: 50-100mg a day of an extract standardised to 14% triterpenes, in one or several doses.
To varying degrees, and under certain conditions, prostate benefits have also been demonstrated for the following : DIM, vitamin E, selenium (selenium deficiency is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer), pumpkin seeds, and nettle root (which is recognised by the WHO and ESCOP for its ability to relieve urination problems). As well as being able to slow down the process, these supplements may be effective enough to avoid the need for surgery (22). They do not impair erectile function (one of the most common criticisms of drugs) and are normally effective within six weeks of starting supplementation (as opposed to 3-6 months for their drug counterparts).
While these substances are often taken together, they are seldom combined in a single formulation that delivers the optimal strength for each ingredient. Prosta Natural Formula is one of the rare exceptions, containing as it does all the compounds mentioned in this summary.