'Supports Prostate Health,' the Latest Supplement Lie

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SupplementsBecause of the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), dietary supplement purveyors can't claim that their products can prevent, treat or cure disease. So they have to resort to "support" verbiage. But we know what they really mean.

Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the case of prostate cancer, as the number of products that purport to support prostate health are legion especially when it comes to prostate cancer. A recent study found, however, that support or not, such supplements don't do much at all.

Dr. N.G. Zaorsky and colleagues from the Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA, reported on the outcomes of 2,301 men treated for prostate cancer with intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) for localized prostate cancer. Of these men, 10 percent used supplements marketed for "men's health, men's formula, or prostate health." The study population included men whose cancers were considered low-, average- and high-risk.

The researchers investigated the components of these supplements, and found that they contained, on average, three identifiable ingredients, with the most common being saw palmetto. Other ingredients included multivitamins, and 43 percent of the supplements contained no identifiable ingredients.

After a followup period that averaged 46 months, Dr. Zaorsky and colleagues found no differences in overall survival or cancer-related outcomes between men who did and did not take these supplements.

"We have noted many times the loopholes in the DSHEA that allow dietary supplement purveyors to skirt the safety and efficacy regulations that pharmaceutical products have to meet," said Dr. Ruth Kava, senior nutrition fellow at the American Council. "This study is just one more example of how ineffective products are foisted on an unwary public."