Pomegranates, CVD and More

Pomegranates have exploded in popularity in recent years and it’s due to their ever-growing list of amazing health benefits. Rich in nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants, pomegranates defend against free radicals, soothe irritated tissue, and promote healthy aging. Best of all, pomegranates are as delicious as they are nutritious. Let’s look at some of the incredible health benefits of pomegranates.

Best Pomegranate Benefits

1. Pomegranates Are a Dense Source of Nutrients

Pomegranates are bursting with vitamins and minerals. Pomegranate seeds, sometimes referred to as arils, are a great source of fiber and micronutrients. Below is a nutritional breakdown for one cup of pomegranate arils.

he pomegranate, or Punica granatum, is a shrub that produces a red fruit (1).

Categorized as a berry, the pomegranate fruit is about 5–12 cm (2–5 inches) in diameter. It is red, round and looks kind of like a red apple with a flower-shaped stem.

The skin of the pomegranate is thick and inedible, but there are hundreds of edible seeds called arils within.

The arils are what people eat — either raw or processed into pomegranate juice.

Pomegranates have an impressive nutrient profile — one cup of arils (174 grams) contains (2):

  • Fiber: 7 grams
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Vitamin C: 30% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K: 36% of the RDI
  • Folate: 16% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 12% of the RDI

The pomegranate arils (seeds) are also very sweet, with one cup containing 24 grams of sugar and 144 calories.

However, pomegranates really shine in their wealth of powerful plant compounds, some of which have potent medicinal properties.

SUMMARY

The pomegranate is a fruit that contains hundreds of edible seeds called arils. They are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and bioactive plant compounds, but they also contain some sugar.

2. Pomegranates Contain Two Plant Compounds With Powerful Medicinal Properties

Pomegranates pack two unique substances that are responsible for most of their health benefits.

Punicalagins

Punicalagins are extremely potent antioxidants found in pomegranate juice and peel.

They’re so powerful that pomegranate juice has been found to have three times the antioxidant activity of red wine and green tea (3).

Pomegranate extract and powder is typically made from the peel, due to its high antioxidant and punicalagin content.

Punicic Acid

Punicic acid, found in pomegranate seed oil, is the main fatty acid in the arils.

It’s a type of conjugated linoleic acid with potent biological effects.

SUMMARY

Pomegranates contain punicalagins and punicic acid, unique substances that are responsible for most of their health benefits.

 

 

2. Pomegranates Contain Powerful Antioxidants

Pomegranates contain anthocyanins and punicalagins — both powerful antioxidants.[1] A balanced diet rich in foods that contain antioxidants may help reduce free radical damage. Excessive free radicals can lead to serious health problems and accelerate cellular aging. Some research even suggests that pomegranates support normal tissue growth at the cellular level.[2, 4]

3. Pomegranates Promote Cellular Integrity

The cells in your body are constantly bombarded by chemical and biological agents that cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress triggers the release of 8-Oxo-DG — something that you definitely don’t want. High levels of 8-Oxo-DG usually accompany muscle weakness, decreased liver function, skin aging, and reduced brain function. Studies suggest that people who eat pomegranates or supplement with pomegranate extract have lower levels of 8-Oxo-DG.[4]

4. Pomegranates Encourage Healthy Aging

Pomegranates contain polyphenols known as ellagitannins. When ellagitannins are metabolized, the metabolite urolithin A (UA) is produced. Studies reveal that UA can fight the effects of age-related decline and help preserve exercise capacity and muscle function. It’s believed that UA does this by supporting normal mitochondrial function.[5]

5. Pomegranates Support Brain Health and Memory

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) occur when protein and fat molecules bond with a sugar molecule. They occur naturally when foods like meat, eggs, and poultry are cooked at high temperature. Scientists believe AGEs play a role in the onset of neurological decline, type-II diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. The appropriately abbreviated “AGEs” accelerate aging at the cellular level. Remember the punicalagins? They can inhibit AGEs from forming in food or mitigate the effects of AGEs in the body altogether.[6]

6. Pomegranates Help Protect Against Harmful Organisms

Some evidence suggests that pomegranate rind extract may defend against harmful organisms. According to one study, a preparation that included pomegranate improved the outcome of treatment plans that addressed antibiotic-resistant bacteria.[7] Another study found that pomegranate peel contains phytochemicals that encourage fungal balance.[8]

7. Pomegranates Soothe Red, Irritated Tissue

When the tissue inside of your body is red and irritated, it can negatively affect your health and wellness. Some compounds in pomegranates, such as polyphenols, can help soothe irritation.[9] It’s believed that reducing systemic irritation can promote overall wellness and help protect against many serious health conditions. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 48 obese and overweight participants found that pomegranate supplementation reduced systemic irritation.[10]

8. Pomegranates Support Heart Health

Some reports suggest punicalagins positively affect the heart and vascular system. One study had ten participants drink one ounce of pomegranate juice every day for a year. At the end of the study, participants’ blood pressure was an average of 12% lower and atherosclerotic plaque levels dropped 30%.[11]

9. Pomegranates Contribute to Prostate Health

Lycopene is a phytochemical found in red colored fruits and vegetables like pomegranates, tomatoes, and watermelons. According to one study, people who consumed a diet rich in lycopene had better prostate health.[12] Lycopene is one of several phytochemicals found in pomegranates that appear to nutritionally support the prostate.[13]

10. Pomegranates May Help With Joint Health

Osteoarthritis is a common and painful condition. In a study of people with knee osteoarthritis, scientists found that drinking pomegranate juice improved knee function and reduced the breakdown of cartilage.[14] Similar studies found that adding pomegranates to the diet of individuals with active rheumatoid arthritis supported overall wellness.[15]

11. Pomegranates Can Boost Exercise and Performance

Pomegranates may help you perform better. One study found that taking pomegranate extract 30 minutes before a workout could help enhance blood flow and delay fatigue during exercise.[16] Another study linked drinking pomegranate juice to better recovery following strength training.[17]

12. Pomegranates May Improve Your Mood

Research suggests pomegranates may aid mental and emotional health. In a study involving both men and women, drinking pomegranate juice improved participants outlook, mood, and response to anxiety.[18]

How to Add Pomegranates to Your Diet

There are many ways to incorporate pomegranates into your diet.

Eat Raw, Organic, Locally-Grown Pomegranates

Be conscious of where your food comes from and how it is grown. Eating organic food, especially pomegranates, is a fantastic foundation for everyone. The seeds of the pomegranate are a nutritious, crunchy snack and pomegranate juice is an easy way to obtain antioxidants and nutrients.

Can’t Buy Organic? Grow Your Own!

When organic fruits and vegetables are not readily available, grow your own. The pomegranate tree does best when planted in well-drained soil. Although it can grow in partial shade, this fruit-bearing tree loves full sun and warmth and is fairly drought tolerant.

It’s best to buy pomegranate cuttings from a local nursery. Look for cuttings approximately fifteen inches in length. Don’t expect to harvest fruit right away, you’re going to need a little patience. Pomegranate trees yield fruit approximately three years after planting. The red, bulbous fruit of the pomegranate should be harvested when the color is a deep red hue. You can also tap the fruit to listen for a tinny, metallic sound that indicates it’s ripe. A pomegranate tree of average size can yield approximately 8-10 fruits per crop and should produce two to three crops per year.

References (18)

  1. Kulkarni AP1, Mahal HS, Kapoor S, Aradhya SM. In vitro studies on the binding, antioxidant, and cytotoxic actions of punicalagin. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Feb 21;55(4):1491-500.
  2. Khan N, Hadi N, Afaq F, Syed DN, Kweon MH, Mukhtar H. Pomegranate fruit extract inhibits prosurvival pathways in human A549 lung carcinoma cells and tumor growth in athymic nude mice. Carcinogenesis. 2007;28(1):163-73.
  3. Zarfeshany A, Asgary S, Javanmard SH. Potent health effects of pomegranate. Adv Biomed Res. 2014;3:100.
  4. Freedland SJ, Carducci M, Kroeger N, et al. A double-blind, randomized, neoadjuvant study of the tissue effects of POMx pills in men with prostate cancer before radical prostatectomy. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2013;6(10):1120-7.
  5. Ryu D, Mouchiroud L, Andreux PA, et al. Urolithin A induces mitophagy and prolongs lifespan in C. elegans and increases muscle function in rodents. Nat Med. 2016.
  6. Liu W, Ma H, Frost L, Yuan T, Dain JA, Seeram NP. Pomegranate phenolics inhibit formation of advanced glycation endproducts by scavenging reactive carbonyl species. Food Funct. 2014;5(11):2996-3004.
  7. Gould SW, Fielder MD, Kelly AF, Naughton DP. Anti-microbial activities of pomegranate rind extracts: enhancement by cupric sulphate against clinical isolates of S. aureus, MRSA and PVL positive CA-MSSA. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009;9:23.
  8. Pai MB, Prashant GM, Murlikrishna KS, Shivakumar KM, Chandu GN. Antifungal efficacy of Punica granatum, Acacia nilotica, Cuminum cyminum and Foeniculum vulgare on Candida albicans: an in vitro study. Indian J Dent Res. 2010;21(3):334-6.
  9. Zarfeshany A, Asgary S, Javanmard SH. Potent health effects of pomegranate. Adv Biomed Res. 2014;3:100.
  10. Hosseini B, Saedisomeolia A, Wood LG, Yaseri M, Tavasoli S. Effects of pomegranate extract supplementation on inflammation in overweight and obese individuals: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2016;22:44-50.
  11. Aviram M, Dornfeld L, Rosenblat M, et al. 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. 2000;71(5):1062-76.
  12. Pisipati SV, Pathapati H, Bhukya G, et al. Lycopene: redress for prostate cancer. J Basic Clin Pharm. 2012;3(2):261-4.
  13. Adams LS, Seeram NP, Aggarwal BB, Takada Y, Sand D, Heber D. Pomegranate juice, total pomegranate ellagitannins, and punicalagin suppress inflammatory cell signaling in colon cancer cells. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54(3):980-5.
  14. Ghoochani N, Karandish M, Mowla K, Haghighizadeh MH, Jalali MT. The effect of pomegranate juice on clinical signs, matrix metalloproteinases and antioxidant status in patients with knee osteoarthritis. J Sci Food Agric. 2016;96(13):4377-81.
  15. Ghavipour M, Sotoudeh G, Tavakoli E, Mowla K, Hasanzadeh J, Mazloom Z. Pomegranate extract alleviates disease activity and some blood biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016.
  16. Trexler ET, Smith-ryan AE, Melvin MN, Roelofs EJ, Wingfield HL. Effects of pomegranate extract on blood flow and running time to exhaustion. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014;39(9):1038-42.
  17. Trombold JR, Reinfeld AS, Casler JR, Coyle EF. The effect of pomegranate juice supplementation on strength and soreness after eccentric exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(7):1782-8.
  18. Emad Al-Dujaili & Nacer Smail. Pomegranate juice intake enhances salivary testosterone levels and improves mood and well being in healthy men and women. Endocrine Abstracts (2012) 28 P313.

 

 

Pomegranate for Your Cardiovascular Health

Michael Aviram, D.Sc* to:

Abstract

Pomegranate is a source of some very potent antioxidants (tannins, anthocyanins) which are considered to be also potent anti-atherogenic agents. The combination of the above unique various types of pomegranate polyphenols provides a much wider spectrum of action against several types of free radicals. Indeed, pomegranate is superior in comparison to other antioxidants in protecting low-density lipoprotein (LDL, “the bad cholesterol”) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL, “the good cholesterol”) from oxidation, and as a result it attenuates atherosclerosis development and its consequent cardiovascular events. Pomegranate antioxidants are not free, but are attached to the pomegranate sugars, and hence were shown to be beneficial even in diabetic patients. Furthermore, pomegranate antioxidants are unique in their ability to increase the activity of the HDL-associated paraoxonase 1 (PON1), which breaks down harmful oxidized lipids in lipoproteins, in macrophages, and in atherosclerotic plaques. Finally, unique pomegranate antioxidants beneficially decrease blood pressure. All the above beneficial characteristics make the pomegranate a uniquely healthy fruit.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis, pomegranate, antioxidant, polyphenols, macrophages, lipoproteins (LDL, HDL)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3678830/

1. Pomegranates Are Loaded With Important Nutrients

 

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3. Pomegranate Has Impressive Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Chronic inflammation is one of the leading drivers of many serious diseases.

This includes heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even obesity.

Pomegranates have potent anti-inflammatory properties, which are largely mediated by the antioxidant properties of the punicalagins.

Test-tube studies have shown that they can reduce inflammatory activity in the digestive tract, as well as in breast cancer and colon cancer cells (4, 5, 6).

One 12-week study in people with diabetes found that 1.1 cups (250 ml) of pomegranate juice per day lowered the inflammatory markers CRP and interleukin-6 by 32% and 30%, respectively (7).

If you are interested in reducing inflammation in your body, pomegranate is an excellent addition to your diet.

SUMMARY

The punicalagins in pomegranate juice have been shown to reduce inflammation, one of the leading drivers of many serious diseases, including cancer and diabetes.

4. Pomegranate May Help Fight Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a common type of cancer in men.

Laboratory studies suggest that pomegranate extract may slow cancer cell reproduction and even induce apoptosis, or cell death, in cancer cells (8, 9).

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a blood marker for prostate cancer.

Men whose PSA levels double in a short period of time are at an increased risk of death from prostate cancer.

Interestingly, a human study found that drinking 8 ounces (237 ml) of pomegranate juice per day increased the PSA doubling time from 15 months to 54 months — a monumental increase (10).

A follow-up study found similar improvements using a type of pomegranate extract called POMx (11).

SUMMARY

Preliminary evidence indicates that pomegranate juice can be useful in men with prostate cancer, potentially inhibiting cancer growth and lowering the risk of death.

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5. Pomegranate May Also be Useful Against Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women.

Pomegranate extract may inhibit the reproduction of breast cancer cells — even killing some of them (12, 13, 14).

However, the evidence is currently limited to laboratory studies. More research is needed before any claims can be made.

SUMMARY

Laboratory studies suggest that pomegranate extract can help fight breast cancer cells, but human studies are needed.

6. Pomegranate May Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the leading drivers of heart attacks and strokes.

In one study, people with hypertension had a significant reduction in blood pressure after consuming 5 ounces (150 ml) of pomegranate juice daily for two weeks (15).

Other studies have found similar effects, especially for systolic blood pressure, which is the higher number in a blood pressure reading (16, 17).

SUMMARY

Regular intake of pomegranate juice has been shown to lower blood pressure levels in as little as two weeks.

7. Pomegranate May Help Fight Arthritis and Joint Pain

Arthritis is a common problem in Western countries.

There are many different types, but most involve some form of inflammation in the joints.

Given that the plant compounds in pomegranate have anti-inflammatory effects, it makes sense that they could help treat arthritis.

Interestingly, laboratory studies suggest that pomegranate extract can block enzymes that are known to damage joints in people with osteoarthritis (18, 19).

This extract has also been shown to relieve arthritis in mice, but evidence from human-based research is very limited so far (20, 21).

SUMMARY

Studies in animals and isolated cells indicate that pomegranate extract may be beneficial against several forms of arthritis, but human research is needed.

8. Pomegranate Juice May Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

Heart disease is currently the world’s most common cause of premature death (22).

It’s a complicated disease, driven by many different factors.

Punicic acid, the main fatty acid in pomegranate, may help protect against several steps in the heart disease process.

A 4-week study in 51 people with high triglyceride levels showed that 800 mg of pomegranate seed oil per day significantly lowered triglycerides and improved the triglyceride-HDL ratio (23).

Another study looked at the effects of pomegranate juice in people with type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. They noted significant reductions in “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as other improvements (24).

Pomegranate juice has also been shown — in both animal and human studies — to protect LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation, one of the key steps in the pathway towards heart disease (25, 26, 27, 28).

Finally, one research analysis concluded that pomegranate juice reduces high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease (29).

SUMMARY

Several human studies have shown that pomegranate can have benefits against heart disease. It improves your cholesterol profile and protects LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage.

9. Pomegranate Juice May Help Treat Erectile Dysfunction

Oxidative damage can impair blood flow in all areas of the body, including erectile tissue.

Pomegranate juice has been shown to help increase blood flow and erectile response in rabbits (30).

In a study in 53 men with erectile dysfunction, pomegranate appeared to have some benefit — but it was not statistically significant (31).

SUMMARY

Pomegranate juice has been linked to reduced symptoms of erectile dysfunction, but more research is needed.

10. Pomegranate Can Help Fight Bacterial and Fungal Infections

The plant compounds in pomegranate can help fight harmful microorganisms (32).

For example, they have been shown to combat some types of bacteria as well as the yeast Candida albicans (33, 34).

The anti-bacterial and anti-fungal effects may also be protective against infections and inflammation in your mouth. This includes conditions like gingivitis, periodontitis and denture stomatitis (35, 36).

SUMMARY

Pomegranate has antibacterial and antiviral properties which may be useful against common gum diseases and yeast infections.

11. Pomegranate May Help Improve Memory

There is some evidence that pomegranate can improve memory.

One study in surgical patients found that 2 grams of pomegranate extract prevented deficits in memory after surgery (37).

Another study in 28 older adults with memory complaints found that 8 ounces (237 ml) of pomegranate juice per day significantly improved markers of verbal and visual memory (38).

Studies in mice also suggest that pomegranate may help fight Alzheimer’s disease (39).

SUMMARY

Some evidence shows that pomegranate may improve memory in older adults and post-surgery. In addition, studies in mice suggest that it may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

12. Pomegranate May Improve Exercise Performance

Pomegranate is rich in dietary nitrates, which have been shown to improve exercise performance.

A study in 19 athletes running on a treadmill showed that one gram of pomegranate extract 30 minutes before exercise significantly enhanced blood flow, delaying the onset of fatigue and increasing exercise efficiency (40).

More studies are needed, but it seems that pomegranate — like beets — may be beneficial for physical performance.

SUMMARY

As a rich source of nitrates, pomegranate may improve exercise performance by increasing blood flow.

The Bottom Line

Pomegranates are one of the healthiest foods on the planet, packed with nutrients and powerful plant compounds.

They have wide-ranging benefits and may help reduce your risk of various serious illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

What’s more, they may boost your memory and exercise performance.

If you want to reap the many health benefits pomegranates have to offer, either eat the arils directly or drink pomegranate juice.

 

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