Most men over 50 suffer with enlargement of the prostate gland known as benign
prostate hyperplasia or hypertrophy (BPH). BPH appears to be caused by an elevation
of the powerful androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and oestrogen in prostate tissue.
Saw palmetto has been shown to be helpful in prostate enlargement and its associated
symptoms such as frequent urination, difficulty or pain when passing urine and
impotence. The active fatty acids and sterols of this plant have been found to inhibit
DHT’s transport and binding to cell receptors, as well as reducing the activity of 5-
alpha-reductase, the enzyme responsible for the conversion of testosterone to DHT.
Zinc has been identified as one of the most important nutrients for the protection of
the prostate. High concentrations of zinc can be found in prostate tissue and it is
known to play a role in normal hormone metabolism. Zinc has also been shown to
inhibit the activity of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, that is responsible for the
conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a powerful androgen
thought to be responsible for the development of BPH and prostate cancer. Prolactin, a
hormone secreted by the pituitary gland appears to increase the uptake of testosterone
and DHT by the prostate. Therefore the inhibitory action of zinc on prolactin may also
be of benefit. High levels of oestrogen lead to reduced zinc absorption. Zinc is also an
antagonist for some heavy metals, most notably cadmium, high levels of which are
thought to be implicated in the development of prostate cancer.
Lycopene is found primarily in tomatoes and is a member of the carotenoid family,
which includes an estimated 700 other naturally occurring carotenoids. Studies suggest
that lycopene may be significant in terms of prostate protection. Harvard researchers
found that men who had the greatest amounts of lycopene in their diet (6.5 mg per day
or more) showed a 21% decreased risk of prostate cancer compared with those eating
the least. This report suggests that lycopene may be an important tool in the prevention
of prostate cancer. This study also reported that those who ate more than ten servings
per week of tomato-based foods had a 35% decreased risk of prostate cancer
compared with those eating less than 1.5 weekly servings.
High levels of the androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) are associated with prostate
enlargement. Astaxanthin, another carotenoid, has been shown to inhibit the enzyme
5-alpha-reductase, which is responsible for the formation of DHT from testosterone.
Preliminary studies indicate that the enzyme is inhibited better by the combination of
saw palmetto and astaxanthin, than by saw palmetto alone, suggesting astaxanthin
would be a good addition to a prostate support programme.
The isoflavones in soya beans, particularly genestein and daidzien, have been shown to
inhibit the conversion of testosterone into dihidrotestosterone, the powerful androgen
associated with prostate problems. In addition, soya is rich in plant sterols, most
notably beta-systosterol, which have been shown in trials to relieve the symptoms of
benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
Flax Seed Oil
Research shows that the use of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are beneficial in
benign prostate enlargement. Supplementation with these fats may correct the essential
fatty acid deficiency that is typically noted in prostate dysfunction. Linseed oil contains
both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Prostate Dysfunction Summary
Nutrient/Herb Typical intake range
Saw Palmetto (45–50% free fatty acids)1 150 – 450mg per day
Zinc2 15 – 50mg per day
Lycopene 2 – 15mg per day
Astaxanthin 4 – 8mg per day
Isoflavones3 30 – 80mg per day
Flax seed oil4 2000 – 10,000mg per day
Saturated and trans fats
Nuts and seeds
Minimise exposure to environmental toxins
1. If used by women, do not take during pregnancy or lactation.
2. May cause nausea on an empty stomach. High doses (>100mg per day) may suppress the immune
system. Ensure sufficient copper and iron intake with zinc supplementation.
3. Extremely high doses should be avoided by those with an under-active thyroid.
4. Do not take in conjunction with anticoagulant medication