Carotene intake may be protective against benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), an Italian team of researchers found.


Alessandra Tavani, SciD, of the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche “Mario Negri” in Milan, and her colleagues compared 1,369 men (median age 66 years) with surgically treated BPH to 1,451 control men younger than 75 years (median age 63 years) hospitalized for various acute conditions unrelated to either smoking or long-term modification of diet.

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The risk of BPH decreased by 20% with each 2,630 mcg increment in carotene intake (the difference between the 80th and 20th percentile of intake), according to a report in European Urology (2006;50:549-554). The risk decreased by 17% for each increase in 828 mcg intake of alpha carotene, 18% for each 3,078 mcg increase in beta carotene intake, and 21% for each 7.81 mg increment in iron intake. Although the risk of BPH decreased by 11% for each 93.14 mg increment in vitamin C intake, the inverse association was not statistically significant. The risk of BPH increased by 30% for each 2,422 mg increase in sodium intake and 10% for each 5.72 mg increment in zinc intake. The researchers observed no meaningful associations for other antioxidants, such as lycopene, lutein/zeaxanthin, folic acid, vitamins D and E, and retinol.


The inverse association observed for several carotenoids, but not for carotenoids without vitamin activity, may suggest that vitamin A is responsible for reducing BPH risk, but the lack of association between retinol and BPH risk works against this hypothesis, the report stated.


With respect to zinc, other investigators have suggested the mineral is important in BPH etiology because the prostate is rich in zinc, and zinc content is elevated in periurethral adenomas and decreased in prostatitis and prostate cancer, according to the report. Additionally, zinc levels increase in BPH, plasma zinc levels rise in men older than 55 years, and cellular and mitochondrial zinc levels are increased by testosterone.