Herb extract of saw palmetto, commonly used for treatment of enlarged prostate is nothing more a dummy version ; argue researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. The results of the present study are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH as it is commonly called, is a very common condition that leads to urinary problems in men over 50. In some cases, bothered by their urinary symptoms, patients take saw palmetto extract to improve their symptoms.
The research was conducted on 225 men, over the period of one year. All the study participants, diagnosed to have an enlarged prostate were randomly assigned to two different groups. Neither of the group members knew if they were taking the herb extract or a placebo (twice a day). The study participants were continuously monitored for improvement or change in the urinary function.
Surprisingly, no difference or rather improvement in urinary function was noted in those who received the herb extract. 'If you look at the change in symptoms over time between the two groups, it was almost identical. There was no statistically significant difference at any time point during the study,' remarked Dr. Stephen Bent, senior researcher of the study.
No difference was seen between the placebo and the herb extract in specific groups of patients with less/more symptoms, large and small prostates as well. Although the present study fails to highlight any clinical benefit associated with saw palmetto, it is possible for other groups of patients to respond in different or rather unique ways to the extract.
Previous studies had demonstrated clinical benefit of the herb extract. However such studies had a smaller sample size and were conducted in a very short span of time. Additionally, these studies had ignored the most commonly used standard symptom score for assessment of severity of the condition.
'This is an interesting study because it contradicts the findings of previous studies. We await the results of future trials to see if these results can be duplicated. We also need to see the effect of higher doses studied - the doses available from high street shops in the UK, are higher than those used in this study. Men report anecdotally that they find saw palmetto helps with their symptoms of BPH. We would advise men who are considering taking saw palmetto to discuss this with their doctor first, especially as it can mask a man's true PSA (prostate specific antigen) level. We would also advise men to be aware that saw palmetto does not prevent prostate cancer,' said Debbie Clayton of the UK's Prostate Cancer Charity.