Saturday, October 1, 2011

Is Saw Palmetto Worthless?


Are you thinking of using saw palmetto for an enlarged prostate?   
As many as 5% of men may take saw palmetto.
Does saw palmetto really reduce lower urinary tract symptoms from an enlarged prostate?  Or is saw palmetto worthless?

A previous well-designed randomized,placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial had shown no benefit with saw palmetto extract for men with lower urinary tract symptoms.

Now a just published clinical trial tested up to 960 milligrams of saw palmetto extract. This is 3 times the standard dose of 320 milligrams.

This most recent trial of saw palmetto extract showed no benefit for men with lower urinary tract symptoms. Treatment with each dose of saw palmetto extract lasted up to 24 weeks. 369 men participated in the trial.

No significant safety issues or adverse effects have been seen so far with saw palmetto extract. Blood tests were done to monitor the men during this recent study.

Both this study and the earlier trial were double-blind and placebo-controlled. Placebo-controlled means, in this case, that those participating received either placebo or the saw palmetto extract. Double-blind means, in this case, that neither the men participating in the study nor the investigators taking care of them knew whether saw palmetto extract or an identical appearing placebo was being taken by any particular man. The code to identify the pills was revealed at the end of the study when all data were to be analyzed.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial is the best way to answer an important clinical question. It appears that these two trials have shown no benefit of saw palmetto extract for men with lower urinary tract symptoms related to their prostate.

Devotees of saw palmetto extract might argue that a different saw palmetto extract made by another company might really work. That may be.

We’ll have to wait for the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial with that formulation. If  that study is ever done.

Until then, is saw palmetto worthless?
I would answer, yes.




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