In the blue corner we have the current champion, saw palmetto extract for prostate health, and in the red corner, the plucky upstart challenger Prostaphil-2, a specifically defined pollen extract from Europe.
Let us first look at the condition called BPH, which is the male equivalent to menopause and afflicts around 60% of males aged 50 years plus. This figure increases to over 85% of males over 80 years. BPH is a condition where the prostate gland increases in size and causes restriction urine flow. This is both uncomfortable in that the patient regularly has to wake up in the night (nocturia) to void the bladder, as well as having reduced flow and increased frequency of urination or encountering a “dribbling” effect.
The red berries of the saw palmetto plant, a type of palm tree which grows throughout the Eastern seaboard of the US, are loaded with fat soluble components called sterols and in particular beta sitosterol, which have being advocated to reduce BPH symptoms as well as another common condition of prostatitis; the inflammation of the prostate, distinct to BPH. Saw palmetto has been used for quite some time but has only been studied in the last thirty years.
Despite much promise, saw palmetto has had a checkered carrier when it comes to clinically testing the product. In 2002, Cochrane meta-analysis (where many of the high quality studies are selected for further data analysis) showed that saw palmetto was efficacious for improving BPH-related symptoms of nocturia and reduced urine flow. However, another more thorough meta-analysis in 2009, which incorporated nine more studies, produced conflicting results and the overall conclusion was that saw palmetto extract was not effective for BPH. Moreover, saw palmetto exhibited no anti-inflammatory effect and was thus useless in reducing the size of the prostate gland!
Undaunted by previous studies, researchers conducted a multi center (which provides evidence for a broader, more heterogeneous population base) trial with eleven sites in the US and Canada. To make the study scientifically more rigorous, it was conducted using the gold standard criteria for clinical testing as it was double blind, randomized and placebo controlled. The number of male patients was three hundred and six. Researchers did one more thing, and that was to gradually increase dose with time above the normally used dose. This is interesting in that one of the limitations of most natural product studies is that the dose used is usually lower than the effective dose and by raising the dose one could finally try and see a cause and effect relationship. The study was appropriately called STEP (Saw Palmetto Treatment for Enlarged Prostate) study. Typically, the dose for saw palmetto is 160mg twice a day, i.e. 320mg daily dose. The researchers started off with this dose and then after 24 weeks increased to 640mg and after 24 more weeks, increased to 960 mg. The total duration of the study was 72 weeks, which is good time period to conduct such a study.
Unfortunately, the results were a major disappointment as saw palmetto showed no activity against BPH or any other symptoms like prostatitis at any of the doses, even the highest dose of 960mg. The overall conclusion was that “saw palmetto extract was no more effective than a placebo!” The STEP up study was a major STEP down in its outcome.
Defined Pollen Extract is a natural health product which uses both fat and water soluble extracts of specific pollen extract like rye and timothy grass. The product, which first originated in Sweden in the 1950’s, has been the subject of a lot more clinical studies than saw palmetto. Besides addressing the symptoms of BPH, defined pollen extract is particularly useful for prostatitis; a condition which has inflammation as the underlying cause. Ideally, a natural health product has to have an anti-inflammatory effect to address this condition.
Prostaphil-2’s mechanism of action seems to be multi-faceted, which is always a good thing since one can approach the condition from a wide-variety of angles unlike for example, the pharmaceutical drugs which work on the premises of one condition and one mechanism of action. One of the confirmed mechanisms of actions of Prostaphil-2 is that the relaxation of the bladder smooths the muscles to achieve voiding a higher volume of urine. Prostaphil-2 also acts as anti inflammatory, antioxidant, prevents the formation of dihydro testosterone which powerfully stimulates growth of prostate tissue and causes aberrant or damaged prostate cells to commit suicide. The last point is important in that damaged cells can linger about and may go on to develop cancer.
Another important feature of Prostaphil-2 is that it works relatively quickly in relieving symptoms of BPH. Between sixty to ninety percent of the patients reported an improvement of symptoms within the first three months. This contrasts with other natural remedies which normally take a significantly longer time for the effects to kick in. Finally, a more recent finding with Prostaphil-2 has been the fact that there is an improvement of symptoms of incontinence whether age related or following pregnancy.
The components in Prostaphil-2 have been widely researched for over 60 years and confirm the effectiveness of a natural and safe remedy for the prostate health.
We have a clear winner by TKO or technical knockout Prostaphil-2.