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Doctors' warning to ignore quack ads promising 'miracle cures'

From prostate problems to getting a ‘rockstar libido in seven days’: Doctors’ warning to ignore quack ads on social media promising ‘miracle cures’

  • Regulators banned two prostate-related adverts from a vitamin firm online

Prostate problems? Follow this ‘daily hack’ and they’ll soon be ‘a thing of the past’. No more getting up at night to pee. And get a rockstar libido in seven days to boot.

These staggering claims – and many more – were all made in dozens of adverts The Mail on Sunday found circulating on social media by companies selling ‘powerful and natural’ remedies for prostate trouble.

The ‘cures’ they are promoting are all, in fact, multi-vitamin pills or liquid drops – food supplements containing a range of nutrients such as zinc, selenium, iodine and lycopene from tomatoes.

And if the claims were true, they would outweigh anything that modern medicine has so far been able to achieve.

Unsurprisingly, health experts have urged caution over the ads, saying there is no good scientific evidence the products work.

Consultant urological surgeon Neil Barber points out that most supplements aren’t regulated and their potency can vary. Some may also interfere with medication

Consultant urological surgeon Neil Barber says: ‘Lots of these supplements or suggestions are based on minerals or antioxidants which, in theory, are thought to be good for you. But there’s no high-quality data to suggest that any form of supplementation has any impact on prostate health.

‘I was involved in investigating lycopene but we found no clinically relevant benefit.’

In one advert, a man claims his urine flow is ‘stronger and easier’ after taking a supplement, and he doesn’t get up as much at night to go to the toilet. An advert for another supplement boasts it is ‘unlike anything you’ve ever tried’ and says it is ‘clinically proven’ to support the health of the prostate and urinary system.

It contains kelp, a palm extract called saw palmetto and a mineral from sedimentary rock.

And an advert for a product that says it provides relief from enlarged prostate symptoms claims achievable results in days.

The products all feature glowing testimonials from grateful men who claim to have restored their libido or stopped being ‘tied to the toilet’. But on independent review sites some men claim the products led to ‘no relief whatsoever’ and warn ‘do not waste your money’.

It isn’t only product adverts – self-appointed experts on Instagram also attract thousands of likes with their prostate advice. One claims that eating tomatoes just twice a week could reduce an enlarged prostate by 20 per cent, an effect ‘more than any other food’. He also claims that a small handful of pumpkin seeds can make the prostate shrink and stop you having to get up at night to go to the toilet. Another, a ‘holistic lifestyle and wellness specialist’ on Instagram, recommends ejaculating less and taking herbal supplements to protect the health of the prostate. Meanwhile, a ‘sexologist’ advocates undergoing a ‘prostate massage’ each month.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) takes dubious health claims extremely seriously, and in September banned two prostate-related adverts from vitamin supplement company Biolifix that ran on local newspaper websites.

The ads claimed ‘a simple trick for prostate problems’ and a ‘genius revelation’ to help enlarged prostates – which appeared to suggest the vitamins could treat the condition. But the ASA ruled Biolifix had no evidence to support its claims.

Official NHS advice is that doctors should not offer herbal treatments to ease urinary symptoms because there is ‘not enough reliable evidence about how well they work or how safe they are’.

Mr Barber says only one supplement, saw palmetto, has shown any promise in prostate health. ‘It is more commonly prescribed in mainland Europe and, although it isn’t magic, it may have some effect in reducing prostate growth,’ he says. ‘But research is limited and the optimal dose is unclear.’

Another plant extract, beta sitosterol, may relieve symptoms when compared with a placebo, some studies suggest, but cannot shrink prostates.

Mr Barber also points out that most supplements aren’t regulated and their potency can vary. Some may also interfere with medication. In addition, some supplements could be risky. Vitamin E has been shown in some studies to increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer. A trial featuring people taking it every day for five years found a 17 per cent increase in the number of diagnoses.

‘Men can try supplements to see if they work for them,’ Mr Barber says, ‘but buy them from a reputable high-street supplier, and check first with your doctor to make sure they won’t interfere with any medication you’re already taking.’

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