“I’m off to save prostates!” claimed ads for POM Wonderful pomegranate juice years ago.
Men, you can stop drinking the juice if you don’t like the taste or the expense.
For years, the POM Wonderful company of Los Angeles led men with prostate cancer to believe that drinking its pomegranate juice would slow down the growth of their cancers. This was based mostly on a pilot study funded by the owners of POM Wonderful and conducted at the University of California at Los Angeles.
That study monitored the levels of PSA in men treated for prostate cancer who drank pomegranate juice every day. (PSA, or prostate specific antigen, is a protein produced by the prostate. Rising PSA levels can be a sign of a growing tumor.)
“The juice seems to be working,” the lead researcher was quoted in a UCLA press release about the study. POM’s owners, Lynda and Stewart Resnick, are longtime supporters of UCLA and have given tens of millions of dollars to the University. UCLA’s enthusiastic press release no doubt helped boost pomegranate juice sales for its two benefactors.
But the hyped-up pilot study had no placebo group, so there was no way to tell if drinking pomegranate juice actually made any difference.
Fast-forward a decade
Now, 10 years later, the UCLA researchers have finally published a better follow-up study with a placebo group, also funded by POM.
Beginning in 2006, the researchers randomly assigned 166 men treated for prostate cancer to take a liquid extract of pomegranate juice or a placebo liquid every day. (POM says the juice extract has the same ingredients as the juice.)
Over the next three years, PSA levels rose at the same rate in both groups. Pomegranate juice did not slow down the progression of the men’s prostate cancer. No word on why it took so long for these results to become public.
This time around, UCLA was silent about the disappointing outcome of the Resnicks’ second trial. So was the POM Wonderful company.
In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission concluded that POM’s advertisements for pomegranate juice were deceptive. In 2015, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Court agreed, calling POM’s claims of health benefits “false and unsubstantiated.” In May 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court declined POM Wonderful’s appeal.
the study: Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 18: 242, 2015.
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