I’ve been writing quite a bit lately on diet and nutrition as these relate to prostate cancer. Certain foods with cardiac and neurological benefits are also linked with reduced risk of prostate cancer, which is reassuring. However, that good old standby for bone and dental health, calcium, may not be as great for prostate health.
A new article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examines the connection between calcium (both dairy products and supplements) and prostate cancer risk.[i] The authors represent institutions in Norway and the United Kingdom, both countries with fairly steady consumption of milk, yogurt and cheese over the past decade. The team searched publication databases for all articles up to April, 2013 on the intake of dairy products and calcium to analyze the connection, if any, with prostate cancer risk.
They identified 32 studies, and calculated the intakes of total dairy products, total milk, low-fat milk, cheese and dietary calcium—and discovered an association with increased total prostate cancer risk for high intakes of these products. As if that weren’t enough, supplemental calcium was associated with increased risk of fatal prostate cancer. However, the results were not equally weighted. Some types of dairy products and sources of calcium were more associated with increased risk than others, suggesting to the authors that other components of dairy besides fat and calcium may be the culprits. They call for further studies that include “detailed results for subtypes of prostate cancer.” In other words, can research identify which dairy components, and which sources of calcium, correlate with risks of aggressive cancers? The answers lie in the future.
Good bone health is not just for the young. No matter how old we are, we need to nourish our bones and teeth. Calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients are essential for our bones, but there are excellent non-dairy calcium sources. Many of these help reduce the risk of prostate cancer, such as nuts (see my blog at https://sperlingprostatecenter.com/nutty-diet-change-improves-prostate-cancer-survival-rates/). In addition, consider including more of the following in your meals: canned salmon and sardines; leafy green vegetables such as spinach or collard greens; broccoli; oysters; and black-eyed peas. Also, if you enjoy dairy products, think about buying organic products. Many of the pesticides and herbicides that get into the food chain (think of the grass and grain eaten by dairy cows) are known carcinogens.
Remember to maintain a balanced diet. Avoid overdoing it on dairy products and if you take calcium supplements, do your homework on the source of the calcium. Vegetable-derived calcium is generally easier for your body to absorb than mineral-derived calcium, so consider researching these supplements on the internet. Many manufacturers cite published studies on their sites, but remember due diligence: look up the studies on pubmed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ and read the abstracts for yourself.
Finally, share your concerns with your doctor, who may be able to refer you to a nutritionist. Each of us is unique, and understanding the results of your tests (from your physical) and your health history can help you determine the right food plan for you.
[i] Aune D, Navarro Rosenblatt DA, Chan DS et al. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jan;101(1):87-117.