Taking supplements can become confusing. First we hear that a product will help us, it will control our PSA or maybe even cure our cancer. Certain supplements come into vogue; you can’t beat the disease without taking them, almost take them or be square. Then we hear that the product does nothing. It is confusing.

The most recent controversy is around pomegranate juice. Many of us have used the juice or extract because of the claims made by POM Wonderful. We hope that the pomegranate will slow down our PSA increases and slow down the overall progression of our prostate cancer. We have relied on the representations of POM Wonderful that pomegranate juice will do all of this for us.

What do we really know about the effect that pomegranate juice really has? Here is what we do know:

1- Pomegranate juice slows the growth of prostate cancer cells growing in a petri dish.
2- When mice with prostate cancer tumors are given pomegranate juice their tumors do grow at a slower rate.
3- There is evidence that pomegranate juice slowed the rate of the rise of PSA rise in men who have a biochemical failure after failed
local treatment.

So, what does this really mean for the claims made by POM Wonderful that pomegranate juice is good for men with prostate cancer? Technically, there is no real scientific evidence that this is true. Even for those of us have a biochemical failure post primary treatment the slowing down of the rate of PSA increase does not mean that our life will be either enhanced or extended. According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, no dietary supplement can make any claim about the effect unless there is good scientific evidence to support the claim.

I do not think that POM Wonderful has risen to this bench mark, but I personally do plan on continuing to take one extract pill every day. I am doing this with my eyes wide open.

The important message is that we always need to look at all claims made about any supplement and evaluate the evidence with a critical eye. This doesn’t mean that you should not take a supplement, just that you need to make an intelligent and considered decision.

Joel T. Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.