MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The present study was conducted to evaluate the effect of date palm on the sexual function of infertile couples. It was designed as a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial conducted on infertile women and their husbands who referred to infertility clinics in Iran in 2019.

The intervention group was given a palm date capsule and the control group was given a placebo. Data were collected through female sexual function index and International Index of Erectile Function.

The total score of sexual function of females in the intervention group increased significantly from 21.06 ± 2.58 to 27.31 ± 2.59 (P < 0.0001). Also, other areas of sexual function in females (arousal, orgasm, lubrication, pain during intercourse, satisfaction) in the intervention group showed a significant increase compared to females in the control group, which was statistically significant (P < 0.0001).

All areas of male sexual function (erectile function, orgasmic function, sexual desire, intercourse satisfaction and overall satisfaction) significantly increased in the intervention group compared to the control group (P < 0.0001).

The authors concluded that the present study revealed that 1-month consumption of date palm has a positive impact on the sexual function of infertile couples.

In an attempt to explain the rational for this study, the authors state that, since ancient times, date palm has been used in Greece, China and Egypt to treat infertility and increase sexual desire and fertility in females. Rasekh indicated that Palm Pollen is effective in sperm parameters of infertile men. Administering date palm to male rats and measuring the sexual parameters of rats showed an improvement in their sexual function. Studies on animals have shown its effect on the parameters of semen analysis in male animals and increasing hormones.

So, the trial was what might call a ‘long shot’, even a very long one. But that does not render its findings less interesting. If the results could be confirmed, they would certainly have considerable significance.

But can they be confirmed?

I have some doubts.

Two things are remarkable, in my view.

  1. The study only had subjective endpoints.
  2. There was as good as no placebo effect in the control group.

How can this be?

One explanation might be that the verum and the placebo capsules were easily identified by their taste of other features. This would then lead to many patients being ‘deblinded’; in other words, the patients on verum would have known and expected to experience an effect, while the patients on placebo would have also known and be disappointed thus not even experiencing a placebo response.

This might be an apt reminder for trialists to include a check of the success of blinding in their list of outcome measures.

 

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