Pomegranate Cure for Prostate Cancer? Not Exactly

Pomegranate juice certainly has some health benefits, but according to the Federal Trade Commission, it does not "prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction." This is why the FTC has asked the makers of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice to tone down its advertising claims.

Pomegranate juice is a food, not a drug, and to suggest that it is the "magic potion" for prostate cancer is very misleading. POM Wonderful claims scientific research in its advertising, but the research does not specifically support claims that POM Juice or POMx effectively treats or prevents heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.

The product is supposedly backed by $25-30 million in medical research. The company makes claims that its product is proven to fight for "cardiovascular, prostate and erectile health" with "30% decrease in arterial plaque" and "17% improved blood flow," with claims that the juice dramatically improved the outlook for prostate cancer victims. These claims are everywhere_ Newspapers, magazines, the Internet, newsletters, billboards, bus stop kiosks and product packaging.

Of course, POM Wonderful stands by its claims, stating it does not advertise its products as drugs. However, the FTC wants to pre-approve all of POM's health-related advertising messages and crack down on any claims that lack solid scientific proof. Understandably, many prostate cancer patients are desperate for hope and saw POM Wonderful as some magic potion, "antioxidant superpower" and "health in a bottle." How could they not think that when POM's signage touted the phrase "Cheat Death" next to a picture of the bottle?

Science is about facts and marketing is about persuading consumers to buy a product that they may not have otherwise considered. The reported UCLA study that provided POM's health claims, only found that the juice may slow the rise of PSA levels, but may not provide anything else of clinical value. However, there was no control group and no placebo that attributed the findings to the juice.

POM's studies on erectile dysfunction claimed that the subjects "reported 50% greater likelihood of experiencing improved erections as compared to placebo." Tanslation: Overall statistical determination was not proven. As far as the cardiovascular benefit, the lead author of POM's study said the findings "did not show a cardiovascular benefit" from pomegranate juice for the whole population. However, there were "intriguing" signs of a benefit for high-risk patients. Translation: The results were inconclusive and unclear.

Simply put, drinking pomegranate juice may or may not have positive health effects. It doesn't hurt you, but it won't help you either.

David B. Samadi, MD is the Vice Chairman of the Department of Urology and Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgeryat Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. As a board-certified urologist and an oncologist specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of urologic diseases, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and prostate cancer, he also specializes in many advanced minimally invasive treatments for prostate cancer, including laparoscopic radical prostatectomy and laparoscopic robotic radical prostatectomy. His Web site, Robotic Oncology, has been translated into six different languages and is one of the most popular urology sites on the Internet.