Pomegranate Super Fruit

Pomegranate juice contains a significant amount of vitamin A, C, E and K, as well as the minerals potassium and iron.  It also contains small amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and foliate; as well as the minerals copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium, selenium and phosphorus(3).

Pomegranate juice also contains high levels of polyphenols, such as ellagic acid and punicalagin, which give it antioxidant properties[11].  It also contains phytosterols[2], which can help reduce cholesterol levels.

A recent study has shown that polyphenols in pomegranate fruit extract (PFE) can inhibit inflammation mechanisms involved in osteoarthritis.  PFE directly inhibited the production of cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzymes, the key mediators of inflammation in osteoarthritis and muscle and ligament injury.  This study shows that pomegranate may provide a potential new treatment for osteoarthritis[2].

Pomegranate fruit extract was also shown to inhibit the production of enzymes called “matrix metalloproteinases” (MMPs), which play a key role in disease progression in osteoarthritis(17)

Pomegranate trees grow natively in Iran and eastward to the Himalayas.  They have been cultivated and naturalized over the whole Mediterranean region since ancient times and today is widely grown in many regions of Asia and tropical Africa[1].

The majority of studies conducted show that pomegranate may have unique protective actions on the cardiovascular system, giving it the reputation of a heart and circulatory superfood.  In fact, pomegranate juice has been shown to decrease “bad” cholesterol, prevent plaque build-up in the arteries and improve blood flow to the heart under stress[3],[4].

Recent studies have also shown that pomegranate fruit extract is effective orally at preventing inflammation caused by cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzymes[2]. COX enzymes are the key mediator of the inflammation in arthritis and other painful conditions.  Typically these conditions are treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which unfortunately have nasty side-effects including gastric ulcers.  However, unlike NSAIDs pomegranate fruit extract is completely safe and non-toxic even at very high doses.

Nutritional properties:

Pomegranate juice contains a significant amount of vitamin A, C, E and K, as well as the minerals potassium and iron.  It also contains small amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate; as well as the minerals copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium, selenium and phosphorus[3].

Pomegranate juice also contains high levels of polyphenols, such as ellagic acid and punicalagin, which give it antioxidant properties[11].  It also contains phytosterols[2], which can help reduce cholesterol levels.

Antioxidant and cardiovascular protective properties:

Polyphenols are believed to be responsible for pomegranates antioxidant activity.  Various studies have demonstrated that pomegranate polyphenols act as antioxidants and inhibit arterial plaque formation.  Polyphenols protect against arterial plaque (atherosclerosis) by acting as antioxidants and inhibiting the oxidation of LDL[*] cholesterol thereby preventing an inflammatory response that results in the development of lesions[4],[5].

Pomegranate juice was also shown to protect nitric oxide from free-radical damage, thereby increasing its biological actions, including vasodilation and reduced blood pressure[6].

A human trial that involved daily consumption of pomegranate juice for 3 months improved myocardial perfusion in 45 patients who had coronary heart disease (CHD) and myocardial ischemia[†] in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded study. After 3 months, the extent of stress-induced ischemia decreased in the pomegranate group but increased in the control group, showing that daily consumption of pomegranate juice may improve stress-induced myocardial ischemia in patients who have CHD[7].

Pomegranate juice may help prevent atherosclerosis[‡], which is a risk factor for stroke and heart attack.  One trial showed that pomegranate juice consumption by patients with carotid artery stenosis[§] for one year resulted in a significant reduction in the thickness of the carotid artery inner lining (IMT), whereas the thickness increased by 9% in the patients that did not consume pomegranate juice.  This is most likely due to pomegranate’s potent antioxidant effects; as a reduction in oxidative stress[**] was demonstrated after one month of pomegranate juice consumption, which increased gradually up to 9-12 months duration[8].

Another trial showed that pomegranate juice inhibited macrophage foam cell formation by preventing free radical attacks on LDL cholesterol, which is involved in the development of atherosclerotic lesions[9].

Cancer protective properties:

Pomegranate fruit extract may have the potential to be used in cancer treatment.  Preliminary studies show that it can inhibit the growth and progression of primary lung tumours in mice[10] and also suppressed inflammatory cell signalling in colon cancer cells[11].

Pomegranate juice was also able to inhibit growth of all types of cancer cell lines by 30% to 100%.  It is also interesting to note that the whole juice had a stronger effect than the isolated antioxidants, punicalagin or ellagic acid alone[12].

Pomegranate juice was also shown to inhibit proliferation of human skin cell lines exposed to UVA radiation[13].  Although this study was in-vitro[††], it warrants further research for its potential use for skin cancer prevention.

In another study, it is interesting to note that fermented pomegranate juice polyphenols showed about twice the anti-proliferative effect as fresh pomegranate juice on breast cancer lesion formation in mice[14].  Does this mean pomegranate wine may be the next buzz food?

Pomegranate juice may also aid in the treatment of prostate cancer, since it was shown to improve prostate cancer parameters in one clinical study.  Following surgery or radiation treatment for prostate cancer, each man consumed 227ml of pomegranate juice daily.  Pomegranate juice consumption resulted in PSA[‡‡] levels taking significantly longer to double from the mean baseline level at 15 months until 54 months post-treatment[15].

Another random double-blind trial using pomegranate juice for mild to moderate benign prostatic hypertrophy[§§] (BPH) is currently underway at the University of California, Irvine[16].

Anti-inflammatory properties:

A recent study has shown that polyphenols in pomegranate fruit extract (PFE) can inhibit inflammation mechanisms involved in osteoarthritis.  PFE directly inhibited the production of cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzymes, the key mediators of inflammation in osteoarthritis and muscle and ligament injury.  This study shows that pomegranate may provide a potential new treatment for osteoarthritis[2].

Pomegranate fruit extract was also shown to inhibit the production of enzymes called “matrix metalloproteinases” (MMPs), which play a key role in disease progression in osteoarthritis[17].

Cautions:

Pomegranate juice may interact with some prescription medications, therefore as with all non-prescribed products, please seek advice from a health professional if you are pregnant or lactating, taking any medication, suffer from a serious health condition or are under 12 years of age.


References:

 


[*] Low density lipoprotein

 

[†] Reduced oxygenation of the heart muscle, which can result in decreased function, angina and heart attack.

[‡] A disease involving hardening and narrowing of the arteries.

[§] Hardening of the carotoid artery in the neck.  A risk factor for stoke, elevated blood pressure and heart attack.

[**] Free radical damage – prevented by antioxidants, like those in pomegranate.

[††]Preformed on isolated cell cultures in a controlled laboratory environment.

[‡‡] Prostate Specific Antigen – Elevated levels are linked with prostate cancer progression.

[§§] Enlargement of the prostate.


[1] California Rare Fruit Growers (1997) http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/pomegranate.html.

 

[2] Shukla M, Gupta K, Rasheed Z, et al (2008) Bioavailable constituents/metabolites of pomegranate (Punica granatum L) preferentially inhibit COX2 activity ex vivo and IL-1beta-induced PGE2 production in human chondrocytes in vitro. J. Inflamm.; 5:9.

[3] Nutrition Data website for raw pomegranate – http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/2038/2. Sourced from United States Department of Agriculture. Accessed on 12 July 2008.

[4] Aviram M, Dornfeld L, Kaplan M, et al (2002) Pomegranate juice flavonoids inhibit low-density lipoprotein oxidation and cardiovascular diseases: studies in atherosclerotic mice and in humans. Drugs Exp. Clin. Res.; 28(2-3): 49-62.

[5] Aviram M, Dornfeld L, Rosenblat M, et al (2000) Pomegranate juice consumption reduces oxidative stress, atherogenic modifications to LDL, and platelet aggregation: studies in humans and in atherosclerotic apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. Am. J. Clin. Nutr.; 71(5): 1062-1076.

[6] Ignarro L, Byrns R, Sumi D, et al (2006) Pomegranate juice protects nitric oxide against oxidative destruction and enhances the biological actions of nitric oxide. Nitric Oxide; 15(2): 93-102.

[7] Sumner M, Elliott-Eller M, Weidner G, et al (2005) Effects of Pomegranate Juice Consumption on Myocardial Perfusion in Patients with Coronary Heart Disease. Am. J. Cardiol.; 96(6): 810-814.

[8] Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Gaitini D, et al (2004) Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation. J. Clin. Nutr.; 23: 423-433.

[9] Fuhrman B, Volkova N, Aviram M (2005) Pomegranate juice inhibits oxidized LDL uptake and cholesterol biosynthesis in macrophages. J. Nutr. Sci.; 16(9): 570-576.

[10] Khan N, Afaq F, Kweon M, et al (2007) Oral consumption of pomegranate fruit extract inhibits growth and progression of primary lung tumors in mice. Cancer Res.; 67(7): 3475-3482.

[11] Adams L, Seeram N, Aggarwal B, et al (2006) Pomegranate juice, total pomegranate ellagitannins, and punicalagin suppress inflammatory cell signalling in colon cancer cells. J. Agric. Food Chem.; 54(3): 980-985.

[12] Seeram N, Adams L, Henning S, et al (2005) In vitro antiproliferative, apoptotic and antioxidant activities of punicalagin, ellagic acid and a total pomegranate tannin extract are enhanced in combination with other polyphenols as found in pomegranate juice. J. Nutr. Biochem.; 16(6): 360-367.

[13] Syed D, Malik A, Hadi N, et al (2006) Photochemopreventive Effect of Pomegranate Fruit Extract on UVA-mediated Activation of Cellular Pathways in Normal Human Epidermal Keratinocytes. J. Photochem. Photobiol.; 82(2): 398-405.

[14] Kim N, Mehta R, Yu W, et al (2002) Chemopreventive and adjuvant therapeutic potential of pomegranate (Punica granatum) for human breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res.; 71(3): 203-217.

[15] Pantuck A, Leppert J, Zomorodian N, et al (2006) Phase II Study of Pomegranate Juice for Men with Rising Prostate-Specific Antigen following Surgery or Radiation for Prostate Cancer. Clin. Cancer Res.; 12: 4018-4026.

[16] US National Institutes of Health. Clinical trials.gov. http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00381108.  Accessed on 170708.

[17] Ahmed S, Wang N, Hafeez B, et al (2005) Punica granatum L. Extract Inhibits IL-1ß-Induced Expression of Matrix Metalloproteinases by Inhibiting the Activation of MAP Kinases and NF-қB in Human Chondrocytes In Vitro. J. Nutr.; 135: 2096-2102.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for making my morning a little bit better with this great article!!

  2. wow…. amazing information.. many thanks