If you’re a man over 50 years old, you may have noticed a few changes in your body. You might be getting up at night to go to the bathroom. Your doctor might be saying your cholesterol is too high. You might notice you’re tired and fatigued all the time. And you may have gained some weight.
Having these symptoms could mean you’re just getting older, as your doctor suggests. While you can’t stop age, you can reverse these issues – and doing so could prevent prostate cancer.
When I first met Tom, he looked like a very healthy 60-year-old man. I couldn’t see anything that would cause me concern. Tom told me his health was, in fact, quite good. However, he was tired more than he was when he was younger. But he attributed it to his age. And his family doctor was happy with all of his tests except one. His cholesterol was high, which was not normal for Tom.
With only this one symptom, we were all a bit surprised when Tom announced he had prostate cancer. But there’s a good reason for it.
Conventional medicine has connected high cholesterol to heart problems for years. But Tom’s heart was very healthy. Scans had indicated he was free from any heart disease or clogged arteries. So the high cholesterol wasn’t causing any damage to the heart.
But new research out of Finland suggests that suddenly high levels of cholesterol can significantly increase a man’s risk of developing an aggressive form of prostate cancer. The study found that men in the second and third tertiles of total cholesterol had a significant 27% and 26% increased overall risk of prostate cancer.
What was interesting about this study was that the increased risk was more of a short-term risk than a long-term risk. In other words, a spike in your cholesterol levels could be a bigger risk than having high cholesterol levels over a long period of time. In fact, the study found that having high cholesterol over the long term could actually reduce your risk of prostate cancer.
If you feel like you just got whiplash, you’re not alone. The medical world is very confused about cholesterol. Sometimes they think it’s bad for you and sometimes they think it’s good for you. Part of the issue is that scientists don’t seem to know how to label cholesterol because they don’t know what it is. Some of them call it a fat. Some of them call it a fat-like substance. Some call it a waxy substance. But the only medical entity that I’ve seen identify it correctly is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which calls it a nutrient.
That’s exactly what cholesterol is – it’s a nutrient your body needs. In fact, cholesterol is one of the most important molecules in your body. It’s so important, your body creates this nutrient in the liver. That’s because your body needs it to protect cell membrane integrity and function, produce vitamin D, aid in digestion (makes up a significant portion of your bile), and it’s a precursor to hormones, such as testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol. What’s more, plenty of research shows that having too low of a cholesterol level could be a bad sign.
Low Cholesterol and Cancer
Conventional medicine has pounded the lower cholesterol mantra for years. But in more recent studies, researchers have begun to notice a newer model. They’ve found that people who have lower total cholesterol (a combination of both low-density lipoprotein [LDL], the “bad” kind, and high-density lipoprotein [HDL], the “good” kind) appear more likely to develop certain types of cancers than other people.
The big question, though, has been whether the low cholesterol caused the cancer, or was being caused by cancer.
In 2009, a study found that cholesterol that goes down significantly without any changes in medication, diet, or exercise could be caused by undiagnosed cancer.
Why would cancer cause cholesterol to drop? If you understand that cholesterol is a nutrient, it makes perfect sense. The cancer is eating it up. This also explains why having suddenly high cholesterol can make you more susceptible to cancer. Just as cancer eats up sugar, it loves cholesterol. So it’s quite possible you could go from high cholesterol levels to low cholesterol levels if you have a tumor growing inside you.
However, that doesn’t mean you should avoid eating cholesterol from natural sources, such as eggs. If you research eggs long enough, you’ll find two types of studies – those that say they cause cancer and those that say they fight cancer. What’s going on?
Eggs, along with meat, have long been implicated in colon and prostate cancer. The reason isn’t because of the eggs or meat, though. Most of these cases have very low fiber intake. And even natural foods that don’t move along in the digestive tract can become toxic. However, keep these foods moving, and they provide very important nutrients for your health, including cholesterol. None of the studies about eggs causing cancer ever prove that the high cholesterol content of the eggs is causing the cancer. In most cases, it’s a lack of fiber that’s at the heart of the issue.
The key to avoiding cancer, then, is to keep your nutrition levels high and your toxin levels low. Eating natural foods provides your body with the nutrients you need to live a healthy life. No secret there. But you have to keep them from turning into toxins. So eating plenty of fruits (particularly berries, citrus, and apples) and veggies keep your fiber levels high.
Processed foods that are high in sugar and low in fiber and nutrients significantly increase your cancer risk. In particular, researchers have found that a diet that causes blood glucose levels to spike is associated with an increased risk of several cancers, including stomach, breast, and colon cancers.
The New Cholesterol Paradigm
Cholesterol isn’t the boogeyman everyone wants you to believe it is. In fact, it’s a nutrient that is really an excellent cancer fighter. In fact, if your liver is functioning properly, and you eat a healthy diet of eggs, meats, fish, fruits, and veggies, you probably don’t need to worry about your cholesterol level. I know of one man who ate like this and exercised. He had a total cholesterol score of nearly 800. He lived to be 92. His smoking habit is what killed him, not his cholesterol.
Studies have found that a naturally high cholesterol level can lower your risk of lung cancer by 67%. It can lower your risk of breast cancer, melanoma, and lymphoma/leukemia by 39% each. Other studies show that high cholesterol can lower a man’s risk of pancreatic cancer 48%, non-melanoma skin cancer by 33%, liver/gallbladder cancer by 86%, and lymphoma/leukemia by 32%.
Finally, let’s take this back to prostate cancer, where we started this article. The same study that found a 67% lower risk of lung cancer in high cholesterol patients also looked at men undergoing radiation and prostatectomy. They found that these men fare better with higher levels of LDL. Wait! Isn’t that the “bad” cholesterol? LDL cholesterol isn’t bad until it becomes oxidized (becomes a toxin). When it is in its natural state, it’s part of the entire cholesterol nutrient and should be considered good. With prostate cancer, those with the highest LDL had a 33% less cancer recurrence compared to those with the lowest LDL levels.
It’s time we looked at cholesterol in a completely new way. It is a cancer fighter – but it has to be in its natural state. It can’t be oxidized. Turning it into a toxin will have a negative impact on your body – like any toxin will. Here’s the perfect example of how nutrients can stop prostate cancer simply by preventing LDL oxidation.
Chinese Secret for Preventing Prostate Cancer
You may already know that lycopene is an especially powerful cancer fighter. Lycopene is the dietary carotenoid that gives tomatoes and watermelon their red color. But it’s not the only carotenoid you need to best fight prostate cancer.
A new study, which was published in the March 2005 issue of the International Journal of Cancer, examined 404 men in southeast China. The diets of these men are very different from the diets of men in western countries. And, in this region of China, the rate of prostate cancer is very low.
The researchers studied 130 men with prostate cancer and 274 men with no cancer. All the participants were asked specific details about their diet. The results were then analyzed to determine the carotenoid content of fruits and vegetables that the men consumed. Of the 130 foods participants were asked about, the foods most closely related to prostate risk reduction were tomatoes, pumpkin, spinach, watermelon, and citrus fruits.
The researchers, from Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia, found a relationship between prostate cancer and intake of all the dietary carotenoids examined. These included lycopene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The higher the levels of carotenoids, the lower the rates of cancer.
Subjects with lycopene intake in the top one-fourth of participants experienced an 82% lower risk of prostate cancer than those whose intake was in the lowest quarter. Lutein and zeaxanthin were associated with an even greater reduction in risk. Those in the top quarter of intake experienced a risk of prostate cancer that was substantially lower than those with the lowest intake.
The study also found that all of the participants consumed a greater amount of total carotenoids than American men. This finding could explain, in part, why there’s a lower incidence of prostate cancer among the Chinese.
The bottom line here is simple. You need to eat a wide array of colorful fruits and vegetables in order to protect your health against this deadly form of cancer! Lycopene is a great start. But don’t overlook the other nutrients. All of these work together to increase the health of your prostate. But that’s not all they do. They keep your cholesterol health as well.
One study in particular found that these nutrients keep your LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized. In so doing, these nutrients help you fight cancer – and they help your body’s own nutrient (cholesterol) stay in the fight against cancer. It’s a win-win. Taking these nutrients may lower your overall cholesterol levels. If they do, it just means your body doesn’t need as much of it. But forcing your cholesterol levels lower with statins is the wrong way to handle cholesterol.