Men, Sprouted Foods and Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer has just over taken breast cancer as the third biggest killer in the UK. Many older men have prostate cancer and don’t know it because it dormant and they don’t have any symptoms. We need to know what makes the difference. Why is it dormant in some men but killing others?

One of the answers is diet and eating lots of brassica vegetables such as cress, broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower.  A 2012 study of 1,560 men who had prostate cancer found that those who ate the highest amount of brassica vegetables had a 59% decreased risk of their prostate cancer progressing, compared to men who ate the lowest. No other vegetable or fruit showed any significance.[1], [2] 

This is because brassica vegetables are full of rich compounds called glucosonolates. Experiments have shown that glucosonolates can actually halt cancer growth as well as helping us excrete cancer causing toxins safely.  Scientists are so exited by this compound that they are trying to make a drug out of it. [3]   Yet simply by sprouting broccoli or cress for a week, you can increase the glucosinolates by 10 – 90%.[4] Experiments on mice show that broccoli sprouts alone delay prostate cancer formation and decrease prostate cancer severity.[5] In humans, a research project using a combination of broccoli sprouts, tumeric and green tea is currently underway after a pilot study into halting prostate cancer growth showed promising results.[6] For the rest of us, why not just grow some yourself. Much of the research (and big money) has gone into broccoli, yet sprouted cress has similar (or more, according to some studies) levels of glucosinolates[7] and it is easier to grow. This is because you grow cress on paper, food grade if possible, so it doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals. Cress also contains calcium and lashings of vitamin C and a plethora of plant hormones.

I know many of you might be thinking plant hormones? Aren’t hormones in the environment dangerous? This is true of the industrial hormone mimics in plastics, pesticides and detergents but they are very different from the gentle, natural hormones found in plants. We evolved alongside plant hormones; they have the same molecular structure as our own hormones. A roundup of 19 different studies concluded that men who eat a lot of plant hormones have a reduced risk of prostate cancer.[8] [9]

Studies also show that eating legumes such as mung and lentil can help reduce prostate cancer risk.[10] The good news is that mung and lentil are very easy to sprout as well, and the process makes them more digestible and nutritious than unsprouted, yet they only take 2 days before you get your first harvest. You can sprinkle them on the top of soups and stews or add them to salads.

With prostate cancer on the rise sprouted foods can be a crucial part of a good cancer preventative strategy for all men. Sprouts such as cress were always part of our culture. Look out for them in your local health food shop. Sadly the “cress salad” sold in many supermarkets today are usually rape seed which are much blander and don’t have the high amounts of glucosinolates, so sprouting them at home is the best option.

Also sprouted foods give you a nutrient dense topper to match many vitamin pills. We evolved on a complex diet of interesting plants and nutrients, sprouting can help bring some of these back and may offer the some solutions to our many modern health problems such as the rise in prostate and other cancers.

[1]  Erin L. Richman, ScD, Peter R. Carroll, et al . Vegetable and fruit intake after diagnosis and risk of prostate cancer progression. Int J Cancer. 2012

[2]  Watson G W, Beaver L M, Williams D E, et al. Phytochemicals from cruciferous vegetables, epigenetics, and prostate cancer prevention. AAPS J. 2013

[3] Alumkal JJ, Slottke R, Schwartzman J, et al. Phase II study of sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extracts in men with recurrent prostate cancer. Invest New Drugs. 2015

[4] Fahey JW, Zhang Y, and Talalay P. Broccoli sprouts: An exceptionally rich source of inducers of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogens. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 1997

[5] Laura M. Beaver  Christiane V. Lӧhr  John D. Clarke  et al. Broccoli sprouts delay prostate cancer formation and decrease prostate cancer severity with a concurrent decrease in HDAC3 protein expression in TRAMP mice. Cur Dev Nut 2017

[6] van Die MD, Williams SG, Emery J, et al. A Placebo-Controlled Double-Blinded Randomized Pilot Study of Combination Phytotherapy in Biochemically Recurrent Prostate Cancer. Prostate. 2017

[7] McNaughton SA and Marks GC. Development of a food composition database for the estimation of dietary intakes of glucosinolates, the biologically active constituents of cruciferous vegetables. Br J Nutr. 2003

[8] Jinjing He, Shuai Wang,Mi Zhou, Weiwen et al Phytoestrogens and risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies Published online,  World J Surg Oncol. 2015

[9] Zhang Q, Feng H, Qluwakemi B et al  Phytoestrogens and risk of prostate cancer: an updated meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2017

[10] Song-Yi Park, Suzanne P. Murphy, Lynne R. Wilkens, et al. Legume and isoflavone intake and prostate cancer risk: The Multiethnic Cohort Study. Int J Cancer. 2008 Aug