The most widely used over-the-counter supplement for prostate health is no more effective than a placebo in treating men’s lower urinary tract symptoms, according to a national study that included a UT Southwestern prostate expert.
In the largest and longest trial investigating saw palmetto extract, North American scientists, including Claus Roehrborn, M.D., Chair of Urology at UT Southwestern, tested up to three times the standard manufacturer’s dose and found the supplement did not improve lower urinary tract symptoms in men with prostate enlargement.
“Astonishingly enough, there was not any measurable effect — either in benefits or in toxicity — with increasing doses of the supplement in comparison to the placebo,” Dr. Roehrborn says.
Lower urinary tract symptoms may be treated with medications, minimally invasive therapies, or surgery. But plant extracts, believed to have anti-inflammatory, antihormonal, and anti-growth agents, have been widely used for decades. The most commonly used are extracts of the fruit of the saw palmetto dwarf plant tree.
In the randomized study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers tested nearly 400 men ages 45 and older. Along with monitoring lower urinary tract symptoms, they also tested the impact of saw palmetto extract on quality of life issues such as nighttime urination, sexual function, incontinence problems, and sleep dysfunction.
“None of them showed any effect whatsoever in contrast to the placebo,” Dr. Roehrborn says. “These supplements cost about $30 or more a month, and they obviously don’t help.”