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12/17/2009 - Articles

Eat Right to Fight BPH

By: Robert W. Griffith, MD

Eat Right to Fight BPH

Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) has been reported to be more common in men who eat a lot of dairy foods. A new study from Italy, however, suggests that cereals, bread, and eggs may be bad, while soup, vegetables, and pulses may be good, if you want to avoid BPH.



Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), which is sometimes called prostatism, is an extremely common condition in older men. It causes increased frequency of urination, dribbling, incomplete emptying of the bladder, and a weak stream of urine. Having to get up at night is a common burden. There are plenty of treatments - both medical and surgical - but it would be ideal if the condition could be prevented in the first place. A report from Italy, published in the journal Urology, offers some hope in this direction. Here's a summary.

What was done

The study was done in 4 Italian provinces. Over 1350 men who were under 75 and admitted to hospital for surgery for BPH were compared with a similar group of men admitted for acute, non-cancerous conditions. A food-frequency questionnaire was given to all men in both groups. They were asked about their consumption of 78 different foods and beverages (with a separate section on alcoholic drinks) over the 2 years leading up to their diagnosis or hospital admission.

The odds ratio was calculated for different food groups, using a classification of the subjects into five classes, called quintiles, for each food group examined. An odds ratio(OR) is calculated by dividing the odds in the treated or exposed group by the odds in the control group. In this case, it's the number of events (BPH) divided by the number of non-events (no BPH) for each group - the odds - expressed as a ratio between the odds for subjects in a high vs. a low intake quintile for each particular food group. Odds ratios were also calculated for lifestyle factors - physical activity, smoking, and alcohol intake.

What was found

Total calorie intake didn't affect the risk of developing BPH. Physical inactivity carried an OR of 1.6 compared with active men. Smokers had a low OR (0.5), as did drinking alcohol vs. abstinence.

There were 4 food groups that carried an increased risk of BPH: cereals (OR 1.55 for the highest vs. the lowest intake), bread (OR 1.69), eggs (OR 1.43), and poultry (OR 1.39).

Higher intakes of 4 food groups were linked to a lowered risk of BPH: soups (OR 0.74), cooked vegetables (OR 0.66), peas, beans and lentils (OR 0.74) and citrus fruit (OR 0.82).

Pasta, rice, potatoes, red meat, non-citrus fruit, coffee, and dairy products had only minor, nor-significant effects on the risk of BPH.

What this means

This study suggests that diet has an effect on the likelihood of developing BPH. Previous research on this subject has incriminated dairy products as being possibly harmful in this respect, but that was not the case in this study.

This was a so-called case-control study, which cannot provide definitive evidence of a cause-and-effect between different types of diet and the occurrence of BPH. To do this, a prospective longitudinal study would be required, in which a group of men without BPH would eat a diet rich in the 'protective' food groups and low in the 'harmful' food groups, and the occurrence of BPH compared after a number of years with that in a comparable group eating an unregulated diet.

To sum up, the present study suggests a diet rich in cereals, bread, eggs, and poultry should be avoided, and replaced by one with plenty of soups, vegetables, pulses (peas, beans, lentils) and citrus fruits, if one wishes to lower the chance of developing prostatism.



  • Food groups and risk of benign prostatic hypertrophy. BF. Bravi, C. Bosetti, L. Dal Maso,  et al., Urology, 2006, vol. 67, pp. 73--79



Related Links
BUPA: Enlarged Prostate
UAB Health System: BPH
The role of zinc in BPH


Created on: 12/17/2009
Reviewed on: 12/17/2009

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