A DAILY glass of pomegranate juice can hold back prostate cancer and could even prevent men dying of the disease, US scientists have discovered. Just one 8oz glass of juice per day increased the stability period of prostate cancer four-fold, scientists found.
The effect was so pronounced it may allow older men to avoid dying from the cancer, experts believe. Simply by drinking pomegranate juice, a man of 65 to 70 with prostate cancer could complete his normal life span without having to undergo harsh medical treatments.
Last year US researchers at the University of Wisconsin showed that pomegranate juice dramatically slows down prostate cancer in mice.
The new three-year pilot study from the University of California at Los Angeles involved 50 prostate cancer patients who had undergone surgery or radiotherapy.
All the men had experienced a post-treatment increase in blood levels of PSA (prostate-specific antigen), indicating that cancer was still present in their bodies. Over a period of three years, scientists measured the men's PSA levels to calculate how fast they were taking to double.
Prostate cancer patients who have short doubling times are more likely to die from their illness.
The average doubling time for the disease is about 15 months. But drinking pomegranate juice extended this period to 54 months - an almost four-fold increase.
"I was surprised when I saw such an improvement in PSA numbers," said Dr Allan Pantuck, who led the study.
"In older men 65 to 70 who have been treated for prostate cancer, we can give them pomegranate juice and it may be possible for them to outlive their risk of dying from their cancer.
"We're hoping we may be able to prevent or delay the need for other therapies usually used in this population such as hormone treatment or chemotherapy, both of which bring with them harmful side effects.
"This is not a cure, but we may be able to change the way prostate cancer grows."
The study showed that the speed at which PSA levels rose in the men fell by an average of 35% after they started drinking pomegranate juice.
There was also evidence that pomegranate juice was actually killing prostate cancer cells.
Critics might argue that the study lacks independence, since it was funded by the Stewart and Lynda Resnick Trust, which has links with pomegranate products.
POM Wonderful, owned by the Resnicks, provided the juice used in the research. However the findings were published in a respected peer review journal, Clinical Cancer Research.
A much larger randomised trial headed by the university is now planned at 10 centres in California. The scientists also want to investigate how pomegranate juice affects prostate cancer.
Pomegranate juice is known to have anti-inflammatory effects and high levels of anti-oxidants, which protect healthy cells from damage by destructive groups of atoms called free radicals.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men in the UK and in Australia.