ATLANTA—Healthy eating may lower the risk of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), according to data presented at the American Urological Association 2012 annual meeting.

Investigators assessed diet quality in 1,385 men aged 40 and older using the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Health Eating Index (HEI), which grades diets by their conformance to USDA recommendations. Diets are scored from 0-100; higher scores mean more conformance. The researchers, led by Bradley A. Erickson, MD, Assistant Professor of Urology at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, compared diet quality of study participants who reported and who did not report urinary symptoms. Men with HEI scores below 50 and above 80 had poor and good diets, respectively.

The study revealed significantly higher rates of LUTS in men with poor diets than in those with good diets (25.8% vs. 17.8%). An unhealthy diet was associated with a 70% increased risk of LUTS compared with a healthy diet, after adjusting for multiple variables. The study also demonstrated that alcohol intake was protective, lowering the risk of LUTS by 33% compared with no alcohol consumption.

Unlike many previous studies of the relationship between diet and LUTS, the new study did not focus on a particular nutrient but rather subjects’ whole diets, which is more important, Dr. Erickson said. “Saying you [need to] have an overall healthy diet we think is more useful than saying eat less fat or eat less salt, because if you can do that, and the rest of your diet is unhealthy, I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference for lower urinary tract symptoms,” he said. 

The finding that alcohol lowers LUTS risk is not new, and Dr. Erickson observed, “Our hypothesis is that it could just have something to do with being associated with an overall healthy lifestyle.”