Friday, September 15, 2006

Pomegranates for the Prostate?

Pomegranates for the Prostate?

Q: Is it true that pomegranate juice protects against prostate cancer?

A: Pomegranate juice may turn out to be very useful in the treatment of prostate cancer and, perhaps, its prevention, as well. Here’s the story: in 2005, researchers at the University of Wisconsin tested various doses of pomegranate extract on human prostate cancer cells in the lab. The higher the dose of the extract, the more cancer cells died.

Then, in tests with mice that were injected with human prostate cancer cells, the animals that received the highest concentration of pomegranate extract had the least progression of prostate cancer and declining levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA), a marker for prostate cancer in humans. In a comparison group of mice that received only water instead of pomegranate extract, tumors grew much faster.

And now it appears that pomegranate juice also helps humans. Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) tested it on a group of 46 men whose PSA levels were rising after treatment for prostate cancer – usually a bad sign. While surgery or radiation cures two out of every three cases of early prostate cancer, the disease lingers among patients in the other third, and within 15 years, may progress to deadly metastatic cancer.

Patients with detectable PSA levels after surgery or radiation usually are treated with hormone therapy to remove testosterone from the system. This can bring on severe side effects including hot flashes, osteoporosis, fatigue, depression and muscle wasting, as well as loss of libido or erectile dysfunction. Instead, the men participating in the UCLA study drank eight ounces of pomegranate juice daily. Of the 46 patients, PSA levels declined in 16 and, in four of them, dropped by half. The researchers reported that some of the men in the study have continued drinking pomegranate juice and their PSA levels have remained stable for more than three years.

It’s little wonder pomegranate juice shows such remarkable effects. It is anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants. It contains some of the same polyphenols found in tea, as well as isoflavones found in soy, plus ellagic acid found in berries, which is believed to play a role in cancer cell death.

Pomegranate juice didn’t work on everyone in the study and certainly isn’t a cure, but the results were sufficiently striking to prompt the launch of a larger clinical trial to be conducted at 10 medical centers around the country. The hope is that the juice will turn out to be powerful enough to keep prostate cancer in check. As a result, the researchers said, prostate cancer patients between the ages of 65 and 70 may be able to avoid both hormonal treatment and chemotherapy and still have normal life expectancy. The UCLA study was published in the July 1, 2006, issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

–Author of:
Eight Weeks to Optimum Health
Spontaneous Healing
The Natural Mind
The Marriage of the Sun and Moon
Health and Healing
Natural Health, Natural Medicine
From Chocolate to Morphine (with Winifred Rosen)

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