A new, long-term, Swedish study shows that zinc is invaluable for men with prostate cancer. Researchers found, especially with early prostate cancer, that if men get enough zinc in their diets, they are more likely to die from other causes than from their prostate cancer.
The study was conducted on 525 Swedes under the age of 80, who had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Some of these men had tumors that were localized; in others the cancer was more widespread.
Men were asked to join the study as early as January 1989 and as late as July 1994. When the study’s results were analyzed in 2010, some of the men had been followed for 20 years, and the average was 6.4 years.
Each participant was given a questionnaire, which included 68 common foods eaten by Swedes. The men identified how often they ate the foods, and the scientists determined how much zinc was in their diet. None of the men were taking zinc supplements.
At the study’s conclusion:
• 218 men (42%) died of prostate cancer
• 257 men (49%) died of other causes
• 50 men were still alive
Among all cases of prostate cancer, patients whose diets included the highest amounts of zinc were 36% less likely to die from prostate cancer than those ingesting the least amount of zinc.
Further, Mara Meyer, the study’s author and researcher at the Harvard School of Health, said, “Among men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer (as opposed to more advanced cancer) , men in the top quartile of zinc intake were 76% less likely to die from prostate cancer, compared to men in the bottom quartile.
The group with the highest levels of dietary zinc (the top quartile) had 15.6-20.1 mg of zinc per day, whereas the lowest group had 9.0-12.8 mg per day. Not much of a difference, and easy to adjust one’s diet for.
Zinc is a naturally occurring, essential element. The body cannot produce zinc; it’s only obtainable through food or supplements. There is more zinc in the prostate tissue than in any other tissue in the body. When doctors compare zinc levels in tissue with prostate cancer to tissue nearby that is not cancerous, they find more zinc in the healthy tissue.
Zinc is an antioxidant, and as such, likely assists the body in ridding itself of unhealthy cells. Zinc also plays a role in repairing cell and DNA damage. These are some of the reasons why I’ve recommended zinc to my prostate cancer patients for decades.
Prostate cancer takes the lives of more men in industrialized nations than any other cancer. In Sweden, 22% of all cancer deaths in men are deaths from prostate cancer. This research affirms the protective effect of zinc. Implementing this study’s findings may improve men’s health across the globe. I give all my male patients over age 50 a prostate support supplement with zinc in it.
Note: Eating foods rich in zinc was not connected to any of the deaths by other causes.