Saw Palmetto No Better than Placebo for Enlarged Prostate

By Steve Tokar, UCSF News Services | February 8, 2006

Saw palmetto, an herbal extract commonly taken to improve urinary symptoms in men with enlargement of the prostate gland, is no more effective than a placebo, according to a new study.

The year-long, double-blind study of 225 men was led by Stephen Bent, MD, a staff physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, and Andrew Avins, MD, MPH, of the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

The results are published in the February 9, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In their study, the researchers randomly assigned patients with enlargement of the prostate, also known as or benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH, to take either saw palmetto or a placebo twice a day for one year. Subjects returned at regular intervals to be assessed for symptoms and side effects. Symptoms were assessed according to a standard symptom score for BPH and objective measures of urinary function.

"If you look at the change in symptoms over time between the two groups, it was almost identical," reports Bent, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. "There was no statistically significant difference at any time point during the study."

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