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Sexual dysfunction supplement doesn't improve sex for cancer patients, but improves quality of life

June 06, 2011|By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog
  • ArginMax does not improve sexual function in female cancer survivors, but does improve quality of life, a study says.
ArginMax does not improve sexual function in female cancer survivors,… (The Daily Wellness Co. )

A supplement promoted for improving sexual dysfunction in women does not do so in cancer patients, but it does improve their quality of life, researchers said Monday. ArginMax for Women is marketed as a sexual enhancement aid, but its benefits for that purpose are not apparent, a team from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., reported at a Chicago meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

ArginMax is made from a patented formula containing a proprietary blend of the amino acid L-arginine, ginseng, gingko and 14 vitamins and minerals noted for boosting energy and circulation and optimizing hormonal balance. A separate formula is designed for men.

Dr. Kathryn M. Greven, a radiation oncologist at Wake Forest, said she first learned about the supplement from a small Stanford University study that found that the product improved sexual function. Because many female cancer survivors suffer from sexual dysfunction, she decided to investigate and see if it would help them.

Greven and her colleagues recruited 186 female cancer survivors who were at least at least six months beyond their last cancer therapy. Half received ArginMax twice daily for 12 weeks and half received a placebo. Both were provided by the Daily Wellness Co. of Honolulu, which manufactures the supplement. Other funding for the study came from internal grants at Wake Forest.

The women filled out two widely used questionnaires at the beginning of the study and every four weeks until its end. One, the Female Sexual Function Index, measures different aspects of sexual function, such as desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain. The second, the FACT-G questionnaire, measures overall quality of life, including physical, emotional, social and functional well-being.

To their surprise, the researchers found that the supplement yielded no changes in sexual functioning, Greven said. But the team did observe across-the-board changes in quality of life among women receiving it. "Bothersome symptoms such as lack of energy, pain, nausea, and sleeplessness were all improved, as were measures of functional well-being, for example the ability to perform normal activities at home or work," she said in a statement. "Simply, they reported a great enjoyment of life, without any additional side effects from the supplement."

The team now wants to determine whether the supplement can improve quality of life for other groups of patients as well, she said. "It's very exciting that we've found something that has the potential to affect and improve quality of life for female cancer survivors. We still need to do further work to find an approach that will improve female sexual dysfunction."

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