You may not see a link between vegetables and men's potency, but powerful compounds found in veggies fight against many conditions.
In this case, the prostate cancer may lead to surgery that can leave a man impotent, not to mention the torture suffered by the patients. A combination of tomatoes and broccoli in the diet seems the best weapon men possess. "When tomatoes and broccoli are eaten together, we see an additive effect. We think it's because different bioactive compounds in each food work on different anti-cancer pathways," said John Erdman, professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois.
Erdman and doctoral student Kirstie Canene-Adams fed lab rats (with prostate cancer cells implanted) a diet containing 10 % tomato powder and 10 % broccoli powder. The rats got either tomato or broccoli powder alone; or a supplemental dose of lycopene (the red pigment in tomatoes which is an effective cancer-preventive agent); or finasteride, a drug prescribed for men with enlarged prostates; other rats were castrated.
After 22 weeks of dieting, the tumors were weighed. "The tomato/broccoli combo outperformed all other diets in shrinking prostate tumors. Biopsies of tumors were evaluated at The Ohio State University, confirming that tumor cells in the tomato/broccoli-fed rats were not proliferating as rapidly. The only treatment that approached the tomato/broccoli diet's level of effectiveness was castration," said Erdman.
"Older men with slow-growing prostate cancer who have chosen watchful waiting over chemotherapy and radiation should seriously consider altering their diets to include more tomatoes and broccoli," said Canene-Adams.
"To get these effects, men should consume daily 1.4 cups of raw broccoli and 2.5 cups of fresh tomato, or 1 cup of tomato sauce, or ½ cup of tomato paste. I think it's very doable for a man to eat a cup and a half of broccoli per day or put broccoli on a pizza with ½ cup of tomato paste," said Canene-Adams.
The researchers point to the fact that eating whole food is better than consuming its components. "It's better to eat tomatoes than to take a lycopene supplement," he said. "And cooked tomatoes may be better than raw tomatoes. Chopping and heating make the cancer-fighting constituents of tomatoes and broccoli more bioavailable."
"When tomatoes are cooked, for example, the water is removed and the healthful parts become more concentrated. That doesn't mean you should stay away from fresh produce. The lesson here, I think, is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables prepared in a variety of ways" Canene-Adams added.
Another study made by the same team revealed that rats fed with tomato's carotenoids phytofluene, lycopene, or a diet including 10 % tomato powder for four days had significantly lower testosterone levels. "Most prostate cancer is hormone-sensitive, and reducing testosterone levels may be another way that eating tomatoes reduces prostate cancer growth," Erdman said.