Papaya was reportedly called the “fruit of the gods” by Christopher Columbus. Today you can get the benefits of nutrient-packed papaya in a supplement as well as from the fresh fruit.
Papaya is an excellent source of vitamin C, and also consists of two important enzymes, papain and chymonpapain, which help digest protein and thus promote digestive health. But these enzymes also have anti-inflammatory properties, which explains why papaya is sometimes recommended for people who have arthritis and asthma, or to help heal after sports injuries. Although papaya has not been specifically noted for reducing inflammation of the prostate, this may be one of its benefits as well.
Papaya is also a very good source of lycopene, a cancer-fighting nutrient. There has been at least one study involving prostate cancer in which researchers included papaya because of its lycopene content. (Jian 2007) The study looked at 130 prostate cancer patients and 274 hospital controls and examined the impact of eating lycopene-rich fruits, such as papaya, and drinking green tea on reducing a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.
The researchers found that men who consumed the most lycopene-rich fruits were 82 percent less likely to have prostate cancer compared to those who consumed the least amount of such fruits. (The researchers also found an 86 percent reduced risk for prostate cancer among men who drank the most green tea.) Another finding was that men who regularly consumed both green tea and lycopene-rich fruits enjoyed protection that was greater than either one individually.
Papaya supplements are available as chewable wafers or tablets. Look for brands that contain at least 25 to 30 mg of papain per dose and follow dosing instructions on the package. Papaya supplements can be taken with or after meals.
Jian L et al Tea and lycopene protect against prostate cancer. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2007; 16 Suppl 1:453-57.