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Studies have shown that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help you avoid a number of types of cancers, including oral cancersskin cancer, and prostate cancer. But the effect of a diet high in fruits or vegetables has not yet conclusively linked to the incidence of colon or rectal cancers. A team of researchers recently reported on a large-scale study specifically designed to evaluate the risks of several types of cancers, including colorectal cancer (Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:1754-64).

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Fruits and vegetables for prostate health

Fresh spinach leaves in a colander



Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) happens to almost all men as they age. It's a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate whose most common symptom is difficulty in urination. Usually it's not a serious problem, but it can affect the sufferer's quality of life. Just how much someone's life is affected by their BPH symptoms is measured by a standard questionnaire called the American Urological Association Symptom Index (AUASI). The higher the score on the questionnaire, the more the patient is bothered by their symptoms.

Just what contributes to BPH is still being investigated. Several small studies seem to link higher intake of fruits and vegetables with lower rates of BPH, but others found no link. A new study just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2007;85(2): 523-9) may shed some light on the subject. It includes 24,465 men between the ages of 46 and 81 from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which began in 1986. The subjects' intake of fruits, vegetables, and antioxidants was assessed via questionnaire at the beginning of the study, and their symptoms of BPH were tested using the AUASI in 1992 and again several times through 2000.

The researchers compared the fruit, vegetable, and antioxidant intake of those men whose AUASI scores were high or who reported having prostate surgery with the intake of those men who had very low scores on the AUASI test. They found that, in general, the more vegetables (of all types) a man ate, the less likely it was that he would have BPH. This was not the case for all types of fruit.

Upon further investigation, however, they found that eating more fruits or vegetables that are high in beta-carotene (like yellow squash, yams, or spinach), lutein (including kale, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts), or vitamin C (such as oranges, grapefruit, their juices, or strawberries) meant a reduced risk of BPH. Vitamin C supplements, as opposed to vitamin C intake through fruits or vegetables, had no effect on a man's risk of BPH.

What this means for you

Yet another reason to enjoy those delicious fruits and vegetables! Today, try a new recipe to increase your intake of beta-carotene, lutein, or vitamin C: Parmesan Squash | Sauteed Spinach | Shredded Brussels Sprouts | Candied Carrots | Roasted Yams with Rosemary

First posted: February 20, 2007