Can supplements genuinely make a difference in prostate health?

There’s no doubt that dietary supplements are crucial in addressing diagnosed vitamin deficiencies, especially those like vitamin D, B6, or B12 among older adults. However, when it comes to prostate health, the question arises: Can supplements genuinely make a difference?

Over-the-counter supplements boasting prostate health benefits have gained popularity, especially among men with a family history of prostate cancer. While some ingredients claim to prevent and manage symptoms of an enlarged prostate (benign prostate hyperplasia, or BPH) and protect against prostate cancer, the truth behind these claims remains a subject of scrutiny.

Research on supplements’ impact on prostate health has yielded promising but inconclusive results. The umbrella category of dietary supplements includes individual vitamins, minerals, multivitamins, and specialized formulas. Prostate supplements often include saw palmetto, selenium, zinc, and beta-sitosterol.

Common supplements promoted to improve prostate health

Here is a list of dietary supplements often recommended for men to boost prostate health and here is what the science says on each one:

  • Saw palmetto

Saw palmetto is promoted as a supplement and is extracted from a shrublike palm in the southeastern area of the United States, but has shown mixed results in studies. While it may help with BPH symptoms, some studies funded by the National Institutes of Health found it no more effective than a placebo.

  • Selenium

Some studies suggest selenium’s role in protecting against the development of prostate cancer and slowing its progression to advanced stages of the disease. These same studies have endorsed selenium supplementation as an adjunct for the prevention of prostate cancer. However, other studies have not found any conclusive benefit by stating that supplementing with selenium doesn’t provide any protective benefits and can increase the risk of prostate cancer.

  • Zinc

Zinc, while crucial for normal prostate functioning, has shown inconsistent results in observational studies, and high doses may even increase prostate cancer risk. In fact, one 2022 study found that excessive zinc supplement intake of more than 75mg/day or 15 years may increase the risk of lethal and aggressive prostate cancer and cautioned men about the overuse of zinc supplements

  • Beta-sitosterol

This plant-derived sterol/nutrient and herbal supplement is found in various foods, is believed to reduce prostate swelling and improve BPH symptoms, according to some studies. However, a 2023 study found that supplements with beta-sitosterol is most appropriate to use for younger men with minimal lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) as a treatment.  

Another study found that beta-sitosterol to have anticancer properties that may fight against prostate, breast, lung, stomach, colon, and leukemia. It does this by interfering the multiple cell signaling pathways that involve the cell cycle, proliferation, and survival.  

The problem with relying on supplements

One of the major concerns about prostate supplements is regarding their regulation. Like other dietary supplements, they are regulated by the FDA as a subcategory of food. This implies that while the FDA monitors supplements that make false claims, it does not review them for their safety or effectiveness. Therefore, it is not always certain how a supplement is made or whether it contains what it claims. Another issue with these supplements is that different products contain varying amounts and combinations of ingredients that may support prostate health. As there is no consensus on the appropriate amount of such ingredients, it is difficult to determine whether a prostate supplement can offer the necessary benefits.

Use the “food first” approach before taking a supplement

Rather than relying solely on supplements, experts suggest prioritizing a plant-based eating pattern, such as the Mediterranean or DASH diet, for maintaining prostate health. These diets emphasize whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and olive oil, with a preference for fish over red meat. Research consistently highlights the positive impact of plant-based diets on cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and weight, contributing to overall heart health, which is inherently linked to prostate health.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, while the potential benefits of specific supplements for prostate health are intriguing, the lack of conclusive evidence and regulatory oversight emphasizes the importance of a balanced, plant-based diet as a foundational first approach to maintaining optimal prostate health.

Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911. 



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