Want to prevent prostate cancer? Use the Japanese method

Where you live can affect your chance of getting prostate cancer. Men living in the U.S., Canada and areas of Western Europe (except for Greece and Italy) have the highest incidence and mortality rates of prostate cancer in the world. Asian countries, Japan in particular, have the lowest rates. In fact, Japan has the lowest prostate cancer rates in the world.

How Japanese men prevent prostate cancer

The low rates of prostate cancer in Japan are not simply due to good genetics because Japanese men living in the U.S. have the same rates of prostate cancer as everybody else. That means the low prostate cancer rates may be due to lifestyle, diet and possibly environment.

If you want to avoid prostate cancer, perhaps you can start by following the habits of people living in Japan, where the prostate cancer rate is three times lower than in the U.S. Japanese men living in Japan don’t just have lower prostate cancer statistics; they also have low obesity levels and the world’s longest life expectancy for men. People who live on the islands of East Asia have the longest life expectancy and the highest ratios of people who live to 100.

In the U.S., the obesity rate reached an all-time high of 27.7 percent in 2014, while the obesity rate in Japan is just 3.5 percent. This is important to men for several reasons, but especially to men who are concerned about their prostate health because being overweight is one of the signs you are at risk for prostate cancer.

Following a Japanese lifestyle

If you want to enjoy the good health enjoyed by men in Japan, you could just move to Japan, but that is not realistic. Instead, take a look at the Japanese diet and lifestyle and make changes to your diet and lifestyle to mimic it.

The Japanese lifestyle differs from an American lifestyle in the following ways. Japanese men:

  • Walk instead of driving.
  • Eat a diet that is high in fish.
  • Eat little sugar.
  • Eat fresh, whole foods.
  • Eat little to no processed or fast foods.
  • Do not overeat.
  • Take measures to reduce stress.

In the U.S., we are constantly confronted with access to sugary foods, processed/cured meats, high-calorie, low-nutrient junk food and drinks such as sodas. The Japanese do not have these convenient junk foods on every corner.

Pretend you are walking through a street fair, outdoor mall or sporting event in the U.S. You will see stands for sugary cotton candy, ice cream, popcorn, pretzels, hot dogs or churros. There is a big difference in your choices for snack food in Japan. If you were at a similar event or location in Japan, it would be hard to find sugary snacks or sodas. Instead, you could buy fresh fish, squid, rice, maybe some mochi candy made from rice and treats made from sesame. Vending machines in the U.S. sell candy, chips and soda. In Japan, vending machines sell soup and green tea. Instead of bags of fried chips, you can easily find bags of dried seafood.

If it were that much effort to find junk food in the U.S., you would not consume as many unhealthy foods. The challenge for American men is to have the discipline not to eat the convenient foods and to make better choices. Unfortunately, that takes some effort. Since you aren’t likely to move to Japan, you have to change your habits and gain will power.

What you can do is follow some guidelines in your own life that can make a positive difference in your prostate health. Losing some bad diet and sedentary habits can help lower your risk factors for prostate cancer as well as other prostate conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also called enlarged prostate. If you wish to follow a Japanese diet and lifestyle, the following changes are a good place to start.

Consume green tea

Japanese men drink several cups of green tea per day. According to some studies of large male populations, men who consume green tea regularly are less likely to develop prostate cancer. Green tea is high in potent antioxidants and it can reduce levels of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that increases a man’s risk of developing both prostate cancer and BPH. Research also suggests that green tea slows human prostate cancer growth and prompts prostate cancer cells to “commit suicide.”

You should aim to drink at least three to five cups per day or to take a green tea supplement. Prost-P10x, is one prostate supplement that maximizes prostate health and contains 500 mg of caffeine-free green tea along with other natural ingredients that support a healthy prostate.

Go for a walk

Men in Japan walk instead of taking their cars. They usually walk about two to three times per day. Find a way to get in at least 30 minutes of brisk walking in every day and increase your activity level. Try to plan out your day so that you can spend less time in the car and more time walking. Consider whether you need your car to do the task, and try to run errands where you can park once and walk to multiple locations without getting back in your car until you are done.

Eat less sugar

Sugar is a large part of the standard American diet (SAD) and a large contributor to problems such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure. The Japanese eat only 1.72 ounces of sugar per day; Americans eat about 4 to 8 ounces of sugar each day. Instead of having baked goods for dessert, follow your meal the Japanese way with green tea or fruit. When people in Japan do eat sweets, they tend to be based in rice instead of sugar and wheat.

Do not stuff yourself

The Japanese enjoy a long life expectancy, and the highest percentage of centenarians in the world is found in Okinawa. If you want to learn how to live to 100, follow the eating style of people who live there. They have a practice of eating until they are only 80 percent full. This makes good sense because it takes 20 minutes for the brain to receive the signal from your stomach that it is full. Stop eating before you feel full. Over time, not cleaning your plate adds up to weight loss.

Eat seaweed and fermented vegetables

Some experts believe that one of the reasons the Japanese enjoy longevity and healthy weight is because they eat a lot of sea vegetables like seaweed. Seaweed has many disease-fighting antioxidants, and a recent study found that it can stop the body from absorbing fat. Fermented and pickled vegetables have also been part of the Japanese diet for centuries. These foods help promote healthy gut bacteria that can improve immunity and prostate health. When choosing soy, keep in mind that the Japanese eat more fermented soy, which is a healthier choice than unfermented soy. Also, eat seaweed and sea vegetables from the North Atlantic: There may be concerns about Japanese seaweed after some of the recent environmental disasters.

Learn tai chi

Stress can negatively affect your prostate health and is a major contributor to pelvic tension and pain. Many Japanese men and women practice tai chi in parks around Japan. This ancient Chinese martial art combines deep breathing and slow, graceful movements. This activity helps to reduce stress, improve psychological health, and help with balance, which studies find can help reduce falls — an added benefit of tai chi.

Eat more fish

Japan is made up of islands, so much of the food consumed there comes from the sea. They eat a lot of tuna and salmon, fatty fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for prostate, heart and brain health.

Eating fish is good for all men and especially aging men. Recent research from Japan has shown that men who consumed higher levels of meat and fish have a 39 percent lower risk of mental and physical decline compared to men who eat the least animal protein. The researchers suggest that it could be that high-quality protein helps preserve lean muscle that is essential for daily functioning.

Researchers find that Japan’s low rate of heart disease comes down to their enjoyment of fish and seafood. Japanese men have less cholesterol in their arteries than U.S. men, even if they have similar blood pressure readings and higher rates of smoking. Eating a diet high in fish may provide protection from clogged arteries.

The bottom line

It is important to note that unlike the U.S., countries like Japan do not put a great emphasis on testing for prostate cancer. It is possible that many cases of prostate cancer go unrecorded. As most cases of prostate cancer grow slowly and many men who have prostate cancer actually die of causes other than their prostate cancer, there could be more Japanese men who have prostate cancer and not even know they have it. But that is one Japanese habit you should not follow. Get tested, know your risk factors and stay on top of your prostate health.

Following a Japanese style of living and healthy eating is going to make a positive difference in your prostate health. Making an effort to avoid processed, sugary foods, eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, drinking green tea, reducing stress and staying active are all good moves when it comes to your health. You can’t go wrong by making those changes. Plus, you will probably notice that you will feel better and possibly lose weight when you make these changes. While you don’t have to move to Japan, you’ll find that breaking away from the SAD diet and following the guidelines of a Japanese diet and lifestyle will go far to help reduce your risk of prostate cancer and risk of other health problems common in American men.

References:

Imai E. Animal protein intake is associated with higher-level functional capacity in elderly adults: the Ohasama study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014 Mar;62(3):426-34.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24576149

 

Dr. Geo Espinosa

By Dr. Geo Espinosa

Dr. Geo Espinosa is a naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist and certified functional medicine practitioner recognized as an authority in holistic urology and men’s health. He is Clinical Assistant Professor and holistic clinician in Urology at New York University Langone Medical Center. As an avid researcher and writer, Dr. Geo has authored numerous scientific papers and books including co-editing the Integrative Sexual Health book, and author of the best selling prostate cancer book: Thrive, Don't Only Survive.