Over half of all men over age 50 will experience frequent urination, according to the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. While this condition may be an entirely normal part of aging, it can leave many feeling frustrated.
Many men talk about having to wake up multiple times per night to use the bathroom, leading to sleepless nights.
This can come in addition to other uncomfortable issues. Urologist Dr. Daniel Brison explains, “Common concerns include having less control over when you can go, constant or sudden urges to urinate, and a weak, lagging urinary stream.”
To find support for their urinary and prostate health, many men turn to naturally derived supplements. These formulas include big promises of improving prostate health. But do they work?
The answer turns out to be more complicated than a simple yes or no. That’s because the most popular ingredient used to back up these claims is a relatively unknown cousin of the palm tree named saw palmetto.
A berry plant native to Florida, saw palmetto has been used for generations by local Native American peoples to aid in urinary health. But it wasn’t until 40 years ago that Western scientists began conducting clinical studies on this mysterious plant.
The saw palmetto berry contains specific nutrients — a “lipid profile” — that can provide the body with effective urinary support. In recent years, this research has gone global. Currently, the largest market for saw palmetto is in Europe, according to a market report. This is because the European Union’s foremost medical agency, the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products, has recognized saw palmetto for its effectiveness in treating the most common form of enlarged prostates, Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH).
In the United States, this situation is much different. Saw palmetto is not held to the same standard as prescription medications, and so consumers are often left with no way of knowing whether a prostate supplement actually contains this ingredient.
In fact, an investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office even found that up to 79% of all supplements (including saw palmetto) could be adulterated — or completely fake, according to a new release from the Attorney General.
Margaret H. Dohnalek, Ph.D. and chief scientific officer at Valensa International, has seen the problem of adulterated saw palmetto in her industry firsthand. “The danger of using a generic saw palmetto is you have no idea what you’re getting,” Dohnalek says. “Products are labeled as saw palmetto that are really nothing but fillers, maybe largely only vegetable oils.”
Saw palmetto is also a particularly delicate berry. If it’s not harvested at its peak ripeness, it won’t contain the right nutrients needed to see real results. Because of its short growing season, much saw palmetto is harvested before given the chance to ripen.
The U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure that consumers receive the supplement ingredients they purchase, developed a new method to analyze the purity of saw palmetto. Through a rigorous process, they are now able to identify pure, ripe saw palmetto by testing the exact lipid profile in each supplement.
The USP-verified saw palmetto extract USPlus is being used by a handful of supplement brands.
Brison, board-certified urologist and former head of surgery at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, designed 1MD’s men’s health supplement, ProstateMD, with USPlus saw palmetto in mind.
“With USPlus, we’ve been able to help thousands of men support their prostate health with the same amount of effective care that’s provided in Europe,” Brison explains.
American consumers can look for the USPlus label to support their urinary and prostate health.