We hear a lot about prostate cancer. It’s a big baby boomer issue. But as a man ages, his walnut-sized prostate can cause other problems.

The prostate, a pesky problem-prone gland found below the bladder, surrounding the upper part of the urethra, can grow, causing urinary symptoms such as hesitancy, weak stream, nocturia and incontinence. BPH, or an enlarged prostate, affects more than 50 percent of men over the age of 70. Treatment options vary, but a recent study shows that a saw palmetto extract is as effective as finasteride in blocking the critical enzyme that leads to BPH. Finasteride is a commonly prescribed medicine for benign prostatic hyperplasia.

The study, published in the July issue of Advances in Therapy, is sponsored by Euromed, makers of the extract, SPET-085. Euromed is a large European-based manufacturer of standardized botanical (herbal) extracts. Joe Veilleux, General Manager of Euromed USA, says saw palmetto is classified as a nutritional supplement in the United States.

In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Veilleux says saw palmetto is a plant. “Nearly all the world’s known supplies of it are in Florida. It’s what they call a dwarf palm tree. It’s a palm with saw-like edges on the leaves…Native Americans have used saw palmetto for years for various ailments.”

The extract has caught the eye of the National Institutes of Health. Veilleux says, “They picked this particular extract (SPET-085), the one we used in this study, and they’re currently doing a five million dollar clinical trial in human patients, at various doses of our extract, to confirm its safety and efficacy in humans. This is one of the first steps towards registering this extract as a drug, even though it can be sold today as a supplement.”

Veilleux says clinical studies don’t all agree on how effective saw palmetto is in treating prostate problems. According to Veilleux, “Part of our wanting to do this particular study was to confirm the bioactivity of our extract…the exciting thing about this particular bioactivity test was the levels we saw were similar to a common prescription drug called finasteride in it’s ability to block the enzyme that leads to BPH.”

According to Veilleux, there are urologists that prescribe saw palmetto because they know the literature and have had experience with the product. On the other hand, says Veilleux, many urologists could be reluctant to recommend saw palmetto until they’ve gone over studies and data.

“Here in the United States, because it’s not regulated like a drug, you and I could start a business tomorrow and sell saw palmetto extract and the consumer would have no way of knowing if it’s active or not,” says Veilleux. “Because of the way the product is regulated here in the states, it opens the door for a lot of varieties of quality and activity. Rather than get involved in what may be active and what might not be active, we just felt it’s up to us to prove what our product does.”

Saw palmetto can’t cure BPH, but it can help with symptoms. Veilleux says if you’re noticing some BPH symptoms, a several-week trial of saw palmetto might be a good idea, but be sure to bring up the subject with your doctor.

Addressing baby boomer men, Veilleux says don’t be afraid to go see the doctor about possible BPH symptoms, especially as you near the age of 50. “There’s so much help out there.”

 Visit Euromed USA at www.euromedusa.com