Supplements

The good, the bad and the iffy

Now that you're familiar with the most crucial vitamins, minerals and phytonu-trients, the question becomes: How do you get the right amount of each?

In an ideal world, simply eating a well-balanced diet would be enough. But sometimes that's just not possible. Supplements — manufactured, easy-to-take versions of these nutrients — may be the answer. Although there's no firm data that dietary supplements can cure or prevent prostate cancer, evidence suggests that some may help slow tumour growth — the ultimate goal in managing the disease. But take note: Too much of certain vitamins can actually be harmful to the prostate. And there are also countless less familiar supplements out there, including herbal preparations, that make a variety of claims — some true, others not. Below you'll find details on which supplements we recommend and which ones we don't, as well as the low-down on the most popular herbal products.

Herbal products and other supplements

Lots of big claims are made by manufacturers of herbal products, and those geared towards men with prostate cancer are no exception. Literally dozens of "alternative" — often untested — remedies for prostate cancer are already selling like hotcakes on the Internet. If you do decide to take a herbal or alternative supplement, don't rely on "testimonials": Remember that the supplement industry isn't regulated, and keep in mind that many of these products may actually do more harm than good. And before you take any new supplement, herbal or otherwise, consult your doctor. Here's the story on some of the most popular — and hyped — alternative products.

Before you take any new supplement, herbal or otherwise, consult your doctor.

Melatonin

This hormone regulates the body's sleep-wake cycle, but some recent evidence suggests that it also possesses some anti-cancer properties, including those potentially beneficial in fighting prostate cancer. In one study, which compared melatonin levels in men with and without prostate cancer, the men with prostate cancer showed evidence of a melatonin deficiency. But will taking a supplement offer any benefits? We simply don't know for sure, although the results seem promising. In another study, men with hormone-refractory prostate cancer that couldn't be treated conventionally were controlled with high-dose melatonin. Other studies are currently underway.

Melatonin does have the potential to do harm, however. The non-synthetic variety of the supplement is derived from cows' brains, and carries a theoretical risk of transmitting illnesses like mad-cow disease. So, should you take melatonin supplements? Until the results of more conclusive studies come in, the answer is probably no.

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