One little seed has been found to have a potentially powerful punch when it comes to the fight against prostate cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer ranks as the second-most common cancer among men in the U.S. It’s estimated that there will be 218,890 new cases of the disease in the U.S. every year. The 2007 mortality rate due to this type of cancer is pegged at 27,050. So, we can all see the importance of discovering new ways to help prevent or battle prostate cancer.
This latest study’s findings were revealed at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting at the beginning of the month. Researchers from the North Carolina Duke University School of Nursing decided to check into the effect of flaxseed on prostate tumors.
Flaxseed is a hard-shelled seed that’s a little larger than the sesame seed. It is chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s benefit your heart and your body’s cells, keeping your hair and skin healthy. They are also known to act as an anti-inflammatory. The flaxseed also contains magnesium, manganese, fiber, vitamin B-6, folate, phosphorus, copper, iron and protein. Lots of good stuff! But can it help treat cancer?
The study involved 161 men who had recently found out they had prostate cancer. Most of the participants were slated to have their prostates removed about 30 days after the study’s outset. The researchers divided these men into four groups. One group made no dietary changes (i.e. the control group). Another was put on a low-fat diet, in addition to consuming three tablespoons of flaxseed daily. To do this, they could add it to yogurt, water, or some other low-fat food. The remaining participants were placed on a low-fat diet only, but with no flaxseed, or a flaxseed- supplemented diet only (regular diet). The men followed their assigned “menu” for a month.
Once the patients’ tumors were removed, the researchers checked out the DNA in the tumor cells. They were looking to see if the cancerous cells were dividing or not — basically, to see whether the tumors were growing. The team found that the growth rate of the tumors from the men eating flaxseed was cut in half compared to those not eating the seed. And it didn’t matter whether or not the participant was on a low-fat diet — it was the seed that seemed to stop the growth of cancer. Could the omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed be stopping the cell division? The scientists don’t really know for sure. So more studies are needed, as usual.
For now, if you’re a man concerned about prostate cancer, consider adding flaxseed to your diet. You can buy the seeds themselves at some grocery stores and at most health- food stores. You can add to a vegetable stir-fry, blend them up with a fruit smoothie, stir them up in your yogurt, or sprinkle them on your cereal. Just don’t overdo it, as too much flaxseed could cause diarrhea.