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Men's Health

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Saw Palmetto for Enlarged Prostate?

Study: Saw Palmetto No Better Than Fake Drug for Enlarged Prostate

Study's Results continued...

Other studies have shown that saw palmetto helps ease the condition's symptoms, such as improving urinary flow, Bent's team notes. Those studies may not have used placebos that closely resembled the saw palmetto pills, the researchers note.

At the end of Bent's study, the men were asked which pill they thought they'd taken. Most were mistaken. Forty percent of men taking saw palmetto correctly guessed that they'd gotten saw palmetto. In the placebo group, 46% thought they were taking saw palmetto, the study shows.

Their guesses suggest that the placebo pills had passed for the real thing, the researchers note, adding that side effects were similar in both groups.

Researcher's Comments

Bent and colleagues don't completely dismiss saw palmetto.

"The results of this study clearly do not support a strong clinical benefit of saw palmetto for BPH [benign prostatic hyperplasia]," Bent says in a news release. "However, whether other doses, formulations, or patient populations might respond differently is unknown."

Bent adds that there is "good reason" to call for further studies on the topic, as long as those studies adequately mask placebos.

"Some people believe that higher doses may be potentially effective, and that's an area we did not address," Bent says.

Questions Remain

The study was "well designed," although only one saw palmetto preparation was studied, notes a journal editorial.

It's hard to say if other preparations would work differently, since "without knowledge of how saw palmetto may work -- if, indeed, it does -- a true comparison of products is impossible," write the editorialists.

They call for herbal products to be studied as thoroughly as prescription drugs, regarding safety and effectiveness.

The editorialists included Robert DiPaola, MD. He works in the Cancer Institute of New Jersey's medicine department. The Institute is part of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

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