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Foods That Cause Prostate Problems

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Certain foods can cause prostate problems in men. For example, the consumption of red meat has been linked to prostate cancer. Find out how red meat can damage the prostate and what other foods to avoid to reduce your risk of prostate problems.

What are Prostate Problems?

Prostate problems are common amongst men who are aged 50 and above. These problems affect the prostate whose main function is to secrete a slightly acidic, milky white fluid that constitutes about 50 - 75% of the volume of the semen together with sperm cells and seminal vesicle fluid.

The fluid secreted by the prostate contains proteins like PSA (protein-specific antigen) and a high concentration of zinc. Besides secreting this fluid, the prostate also has some smooth muscles that help to expel semen during ejaculation.

Of all the types of prostate problem, BPH is the most common and it involves the enlargement of the prostate as the growth of prostate cells gets out of control. Over a period of time, an enlarged prostate may block the urethra and make urination difficult.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men, and most often requires surgery.

Acute and chronic prostatitis refers to the inflammation of prostate tissues. This inflammation is usually caused by a bacterial infection of the prostate. Therefore, antibiotics can be used to treat the infection and relieve the symptoms of these two prostate diseases.

The most common symptoms of prostate problems include painful or burning urination, frequent urge to urinate, blood in urine or semen, inability to urinate and painful ejaculation.

Types of Prostate Problem
  • Acute prostatitis
  • Chronic prostatitis
  • Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
  • Prostate cancer

Studies have shown that certain foods can increase the risk of these prostate problems. These foods are known to cause prostate problems usually increase the level of cholesterol and cause chronic inflammation.

The foods discussed below have been strongly linked to prostate problems.

Red Meat

The link between the consumption of red meat and cancer of the prostate has been confirmed by a number of dietary and epidemiological studies. One example of these studies is a 1999 study published in the journal, Cancer. The researchers investigated the risk factors for prostate carcinoma in Taiwan.

The study recruited 90 patients from 2 military hospitals who had been diagnosed with prostate carcinoma between August 1995 and July 1996. Also recruited were 180 controls who were non-cancer patients treated in these hospitals outside the cardiology and urology units.

The study participants were interviewed in person to get information regarding lifestyle, diet, height, and weight.

The results of the study showed that the consumption of red meat was moderately higher among those with prostate cancer than the controls. In addition, the results also showed that the prostate carcinoma patients were less likely to cook vegetable with red meat.

The study concluded that the consumption of red meat was associated with an increased risk for prostate cancer.

Cooking Temperature and Risk of Prostate Cancer

A 2012 study published in the journal, Carcinogenesis, established that the temperature at which red meat is cooked may be responsible for the increase in prostate cancer risks.

By comparing processed and unprocessed red meat and the temperature at which they were cooked, the researchers showed that high temperatures increased expression of carcinogen metabolism genes in red meat and poultry.

This means that high cooking temperatures generate chemical carcinogens in red meat and the accumulation of these carcinogens is responsible for the increased risk of prostate cancer. 

Heme, Red Meat and Prostate Health

Evidently, there are components of red meat that makes it harmful to the prostate. One theory identifies cytochromes as the damaging component of this kind of meat.

Red meat contains high levels of cytochromes. These cytochromes are membrane-bound hemeproteins that carry out electron transport in the body.

Myoglobin and hemoglobin are examples of membrane-bound hemeproteins and are important in the storing and transport of oxygen in mammals. Hemeproteins contain heme, a highly-conjugated system surrounding a metal (iron) ion that interconverts between its reduced and oxidized states.  

When heme protein is ingested in the body, the iron atom in the heme group binds with oxygen, nitric oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide. Which molecule is bound to the iron largely determines the benefits of heme because once they are bound to the heme prosthetic group, these molecules are able to modify the functions of hemeproteins.

Free heme groups usually catalyze oxidative reactions. These free heme-catalyzed oxidations are harmful and can destroy prostate epithelial cells. The oxidative destruction of prostate cells can cause inflammation, prostate enlargement, and even prostate cancer.

Therefore, reducing the amount of red meat intake will limit the level of free heme available to drive oxidative damage in the tissues of the body and so reduce the risk of having prostate problems.


Butter is a dairy product made by churning fermented cream or milk. It is mostly made from cow milk, but can also be made from the milk of other mammals including goats, sheep, buffalos, and yaks.

Butter has high levels of saturated fats and contains cholesterol. The saturated fatty acids that are present in butter include lauric acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acids.

Cholesterol is naturally manufactured by all humans and animals as they are needed to build and maintain membranes. It is also an important precursor for hormones like testosterone and estrogen.

Since the body can manufacture all the cholesterol it needs, extra cholesterol from the diet can build up in the body and cause harm. Therefore, due to butter’s high cholesterol content, its consumption can produce high body levels of cholesterol and cause cardiovascular complications such as atheroma.

Atheroma occurs when there is swelling in the walls of the artery which is normally caused by the buildup of cholesterol and fatty acids in the blood vessels. This blocks the flow of blood to and from the heart and may lead to various heart diseases and an increased cancer risk.

Researchers have also linked serum myristic and palmitic acids to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

In a study published in 1999 by the Journal of Urology, the association between diet and benign prostatic hyperplasia was investigated in a case-control study in a group of 184 BPH patients and 246 controls without any clinical indication of prostate disease.

The results showed that an increased consumption of butter and margarine was directly linked to an increased risk of BPH while the consumption of fruits reduced the risks of BPH.

Trans Fats

A large number of trans fats consumed today is produced by the processed food industry by partially hydrogenating unsaturated plant fats (vegetable oils). This process involves the conversion of vegetable oils to semisolid fats that can be used for margarine, cooking, and in industrial manufacturing.

These partially hydrogenated fats have replaced solid fats and liquid oils in fast foods, fried foods, snack foods and baked goods industry.

The consumption of trans fats can increase the risk of inflammation of the blood vessels and may also lead to atherosclerosis, which is normally caused by the buildup of cholesterol along the walls of the blood vessels of the heart.

Trans Fats, Inflammation and Prostate Cancer

Several studies have established the association between trans fats and prostate cancer.

In 2005, a study published in the journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention showed that serum trans fats are linked with an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Using data from B-carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial, this nested case-control study explored the relationships between prostate cancer and serum phospholipid trans-fatty acids in 272 prostate cancer patients and 426 control men.

The results found that serum phospholipid C18 trans-fatty acids were associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.

There is evidence that chronic inflammation plays a role in the progression of prostate cancer. Therefore the link between trans fats and inflammation may also explain their associations with prostate cancer risk.

Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates are considered unhealthy carbohydrates. They are produced from plant sources of carbohydrates by removing the fiber, nutrients and other natural components except for the highly digestible carbohydrate.

Refined carbohydrates are mostly simple carbohydrates. They are easily digestible and can rapidly increase blood sugar levels.

Examples of refined carbohydrate include sweetened fruit juice, soft drinks, sweetened canned fruit, bread, bagels, muffins, cakes, cookies, pie, candy bars, cupcakes, and donuts.

The consumption of refined carbohydrates increases the level of insulin in the body as the body responds to the spike in sugar levels. Excessive insulin in the body leads to increased production of an insulin-like growth factor (IGF) which is known to increase the risk of prostate cancer.

Study Linking Refined Carbohydrate and Prostate Problems

Different studies have shown that there is a direct link between refined carbohydrates and prostate cancer. For example, in 2012, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that there is an association between dietary intakes of carbohydrate, refined carbohydrates and prostate cancer.

The study recruited 8,128 men who were between the ages of 45 - 73 years without a history of cancer, diabetes or any cardiovascular disease. After a follow-up time of 15 years during which the dietary habits of the participants were followed, prostate cancer was diagnosed in 817 of the men.

The results showed that there were no positive associations between total carbohydrates or prostate cancer even after adjustment for age or other potential risk factors and that there was a positive association between high intakes of refined carbohydrates and prostate cancer.

Poultry and Eggs

A surprising food linked to increased prostate health problems is poultry. Both poultry and eggs were showed to have a negative effect on prostate health in a 2006 study published in the journal Urology. In study participants, eating eggs and poultry made prostate symptoms worse in men with prostate problems. The study researchers suggested that arachidonic acid, found in poultry, leads to increased inflammation which can make prostate problems worse.


Caffeine makes many conditions worse, and prostate problems are no exception. Limiting caffeine in all forms of soda, energy drinks, coffee, and even tea can help reduce prostate problems. Caffeine's biggest problem occurs when the prostate is enlarged and makes urination difficult. Since caffeine has diuretic properties, drinking caffeine without being able to empty the bladder effectively can cause irritation, further inflammation, and even cause bladder infections and kidney damage.

Spicy Foods

All spicy food like curries, hot sauce, and chili peppers irritate the bladder and prostate. This irritation may trigger further enlargement of the prostate, making existing issues worse.


Research suggests that a diet high in dairy (particularly milk) has a negative effect on the prostate. Most doctors recommend a low-fat diet for men with prostate problems.


Just like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic, which can irritate the prostate and cause inflammation in the bladder. Men with prostate problems are advised to reduce their consumption of alcohol. The USDA recommends that men drink no more than seven drinks a week, and not all at the same time. Binge drinking is unhealthy for many reasons, but particularly for men with prostate problems.


Sugar is the number one food for cancer cells. You can reduce your risk of developing prostate problems by cutting back on sugar. Try cutting back on sweet drinks, alcohol (which is also used as a sugar by the body), and desserts. Look for sugar hidden in grocery store items and restaurant menus. Many processed foods contain sugar to improve the flavor, but the added sugar is incredibly bad for you.

Flax Seed

Flax seeds are generally considered healthy, but for some reason, flax seeds encourage the growth of the prostate. Researchers are unsure why the consumption of flax can make prostate problems worse, but if you suffer from an enlarged prostate or have prostate cancer, watch out for flax and avoid it when possible.

Saturated Fats

Some studies have linked a diet high in saturated fat with an increased risk of developing heart disease and other heart problems. Men who have heart problems also often have prostate problems. The Urology Department at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine stated that saturated fats could be a possible influence on the growth rate of enlarged prostates.

Saturated fat is found in:

  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Coconut oil
  • Animal fat
  • Some processed foods

Foods that Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

Just as some foods can make prostate problems worse, some foods can reduce the risk of problems in the prostate. Replace the questionable foods with the following foods that have been shown to improve prostate health. Even if you don't already have prostate issues or prostate cancer, these foods will boost your overall health and can reduce your risk of developing prostate problems down the line.


Berries fight enlargement in the prostate because they are full of antioxidants. Antioxidants are one of the number one fighters of cancer and prostate enlargement because they are necessary for the healthy reproduction of cells. Antioxidants fight free radical damage and reduce overall cancer risk.

Studies have found that vitamin C, in particular, is beneficial for reducing benign prostatic hyperplasia symptoms. Although we think of oranges and lemons as containing the highest levels of vitamin C, berries also contain high amounts combined with other antioxidants that make them ideal for reducing cancer risk.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish are full of healthy nutrients that benefit overall health. The main nutrient in fish is Omega 3 fatty acids, which help reduce bad cholesterol and raise healthy cholesterol, reducing heart disease risk. A review paper on the health benefits of fatty fish and prostate health found that omega 3 fats reduce the spread of prostate cancer cells due to their anti-inflammatory properties.


Nuts are a healthy alternative to processed foods and junk food snacks. Nuts are filling, but they also contain a huge number of nutrients suitable for reducing prostate cancer risk and preventing inflammation in the prostate. Brazil nuts, in particular, may be the most effective at reducing problems in the prostate. Brazil nuts contain selenium, vitamin E, and calcium, all important nutrients for health. A study from 2010 found that a mixture of soy and selenium could fight prostate cancer and reduce inflammation in the area.

Other nuts beneficial for men's health include walnuts, almonds, and pecans.


Beans, rather than protein from red meat or chicken, are beneficial sources of protein for improving prostate health. Beans, hemp seeds, and chia seeds provide plant proteins that are essential for the health of the body without the side effects of red meat. Beans are high in both protein and fiber, which has been linked to preventing inflammation in the prostate. Researchers suggest that men eat about 56 grams of protein daily.

Green Tea

Although most sources of caffeine are damaging to the prostate, green tea may be beneficial for prostate health. Green tea contains antioxidants and other compounds that lower bad cholesterol and prevent damage to the heart and prostate. If you are worried about caffeine intake, you can even purchase caffeine-free green tea for many of the same benefits without the caffeine.

Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are high in many minerals, but most notably zinc. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Urology, zinc intake is associated with the health of the prostate. Men who have higher levels of zinc in their bodies were less likely to suffer from prostate problems.

Pumpkin seeds have also been shown to benefit men with prostate issues.

Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are high in vitamin C, which is beneficial for prostate health. According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin C found in vegetables (more so than vitamin C from supplements or fruit), showed the biggest benefit on prostate health.  Broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are also all high in vitamin C.


Tomatoes have high levels of lycopene, which is a compound that turns tomatoes red. Lycopene has been shown in studies to reduce cancer risk and help improve the health of the prostate, according to the National Cancer Institute. Increasing lycopene intake was able to slow the progression of BPH in study participants.


Avocados are a vegetable naturally high in beta-sitosterol. beta-sitosterol is a commonly prescribed supplement for improving prostate health and reducing prostate size. Some studies have suggested that increasing beta-sitosterol intake can reduce residual urine volume and improve urinary flow.

You can also find beta-sitosterol in pumpkin seeds, pecans, wheat germ, and soybeans.

Improve Your Diet and Improve Prostate Health

The health of your prostate is closely tied to your diet. The more foods you eat that damage the prostate, like red meat, processed grains, and sugar, the more likely you are to have prostate problems. However, exchanging these trouble foods with foods that benefit prostate health, like tomatoes, avocados, and berries will provide a positive influence on your prostate health. Don't wait until your prostate problems start to take over your life. Take steps today to control your prostate health and give your body the nutrients it needs to operate efficiently and effectively.





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