Alcohol Won't Worsen Prostate Symptoms

Urology Meeting: Drinking OK; Low-Carb/High-Fat Diet Inhibits Prostate Cancer

From the WebMD Archives

May 22, 2006 - If you're a drinker or an Atkins dieter, there's good news for you from this week's annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Atlanta.

Several meeting reports focused on how lifestyle affects the symptoms of an enlarged prostate and the risk of prostate cancerprostate cancer.

Among the findings:

  • Drinking alcohol -- even more than six drinks a week -- doesn't make the symptoms of an enlarged prostate any worse. In fact, men who drink more than is otherwise good for them have fewer prostate symptoms and better sexual function than teetotalers.
  • A low-carb/high-fat diet slows the growth of prostate tumor cells.
  • America's increasing rate of prostate cancercancer matches increasing consumption of meat, fats, and oils in prepared foods, ice cream, salad/cooking oil, margarine, and vegetable shortening.

Prostate Symptoms Better With Alcohol

It's one of those things that people -- including urologists -- nearly all believe. Men with an enlarged prostate, they say, shouldn't drink alcoholic beverages. It's supposed to make the symptoms of an enlarged prostate -- urinary flow, urinary irritation, and poor sexual function -- worse.

There isn't much scientific evidence for this, says Claus Georg Roehrborn, MD, of the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center at Dallas. So Roehrborn and colleagues analyzed data from 19,000 men enrolled in six different international clinical trials of treatments for enlarged prostate and prostate cancer.

Some of these over-45-year-old men said they didn't drink at all. Others said they had no more than two, three to six, or more than six drinks a week. (A drink, in this study, was 1 ounce of 80-proof liquor, a small glass of wine, or a glass of beer.)

"The patients who claim they drank more complained of less irritative and obstructive symptoms," Roehrborn said at a news conference. "The more alcohol people said they were consuming, the better their urine flow, and the better their libido."

Does this mean a man with an enlarged prostate should take up drinking? No, Roehrborn says. But he argues that doctors should stop telling men their prostate symptoms will get better if they stop drinking.

The finding may put an end to this 'common knowledge' advice, says Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, of the University of Michigan, who moderated the news conference at which Roehrborn spoke.

"Not every man with an enlarged prostate should drink," Moyad said. "But men are always told, once you have a prostate problem, you have to stop drinking any kind of alcohol. It is important to know this may not be true."


Low Carb + High Fat = Less Prostate Cancer

The high rate of prostate cancercancer in North America is linked to the high fat content of the typical American and Canadian man's diet.

Critics have blamed low-carb, weight lossweight loss diets for encouraging consumption of foods with high-fat content. Are these diets really so bad? No -- at least when it comes to prostate cancer, suggest Vasundara Venkateswaran, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Venkateswaran's team grafted human prostate cancers onto mice. They then fed some of the mice a low-carb/high-fat diet. Other mice got a high-carb/high-fat diet.

The animals on the low-carb diet lost weight. And despite the high-fat content of their meals, the animals' prostate tumors grew slower than those in the animals on a high-carb diet. It appears that the low-carb diet lowered the animal's insulin levels, thereby slowing tumor growth.

"A low-carb/high-fat diet, in addition to helping people lose weight, may play a role in decreasing the risk of prostate cancer," Venkateswaran said, at a news conference. "Now clinical trials have to be done."

Foods Linked to Prostate Cancer

American men get prostate cancer more often now than they did in the past. Why?

To see if diet plays a role, Jan L. Colli, MD, and colleagues at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, compared changes in the American diet with changes in prostate cancer over the 71 years between 1930 and 2000.

Overall, the foods linked to prostate cancer were red meat, added fats and oils, ice cream, margarine, salad/cooking oil, and vegetable shortening.

"This country shifted from animal fats and went to vegetable fats because we thought this would be better for the heart," Colli said, at a news conference. "That never panned out. And now it seems it might be worse for prostate cancer."

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on May 22, 2006


SOURCES: Annual Meeting of the American Urological Association, Atlanta, May 20-25, 2006. Claus Georg Roehrborn, MD, University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, Dallas; abstract 1350. Vasundara Venkateswaran, PhD, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada; abstract 793. Jan L. Colli, MD, University of Alabama, Birmingham; abstract 133.
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