To ‘starve’ prostate cancer cells, eat turmeric, red grapes and apples

Dr. David Samadi provides his expert commentary on a recent study on mice showing that combining natural compounds found in certain foods helped ‘starve’ prostate cancer cells from growing.  


Regularly eating foods containing compounds found in turmeric, apples, and red grapes could hold a key to preventing and treating one of the most common cancers found in men in the United States.  This information comes from a recent study in the journal Precision Oncology, that found mice fed these compounds when eaten in combination present in these foods, appear to kill off prostate cancer cells by ‘starving’ or stopping the tumors from growing.

“We all want that magic bullet that is going to be the cure for prostate cancer and it is not uncommon for many men to rely on taking a multivitamin for supporting their prostate health,” said Dr. David Samadi. “There can be times when a supplement may be of benefit, but natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables and spices are still the best options available and this study further enhances that fact.”

The study, conducted at the Department of Nutritional Sciences and the Dell Pediatric Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, used a genetic technique to analyze 142 natural compounds with the goal of identifying those that were the most effective at stopping the growth of prostate cancer cells.  The prostate cancer cells came from mice and humans, individually and in combination.

“What the researchers discovered was three compounds that were most effective for destroying cancer cells,” stated Dr. Samadi.  “These three compounds were curcumin, a yellow compound naturally found in the spice turmeric, ursolic acid which is found in the peel of apples, and resveratrol, a compound found in red grapes and berries.”

Specifically what the study found was that when ursolic acid was combined with either curcumin or resveratrol, the prostate tumors began to shrink. The reason for this is because the natural compounds prevented the uptake of the amino acid glutamine by prostate cancer cells that is essential to tumor growth. 

“What is very exciting and makes this study stand out from others is that these three compounds are naturally found in food and therefore did not have any toxic effect on the mice,” exclaimed Dr. Samadi.  “Even though the concentrations of these compounds used in the study were much higher than what is normally consumed through our diet, at least this study shows that these nutrients have potential anti-cancer properties and could be a natural way to prevent and treat prostate cancer.”

Dr. Samadi went on to add, “We know whole plant foods have consistently been found to be protective in reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as prostate cancer.  When we combine certain foods together they may be more beneficial then eating them separately which is known as food synergy.  This study clearly demonstrates this and reminds us all to get our nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants from eating whole foods and not by popping vitamin or mineral supplement pills.  Pills simply cannot mimic this balanced, natural complex combination of phytochemicals present in fruits and vegetables.  Like I always have, I’ll keep reminding the men I see to eat healthy food sources to protect their prostate.”

Patients newly diagnosed with prostate cancer can contact world renowned prostate cancer surgeon and urologic oncologist, Dr. David Samadi, for a free phone consultation and to learn more about prostate cancer risk, call 212-365-5000.