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The pomegranate is a round fruit about the size of a large orange. It has a smooth, reddish-pink rind that holds hundreds of seeds in a juicy, red pulp. Pomegranate juice is extracted from the seeds of the fruit.

Like many fruit juices, pomegranate juice contains antioxidants, especially polyphenols. However, pomegranate juice contains antioxidants at much higher levels than other fruit juices. Antioxidants are thought to provide several heart-protecting benefits, including reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol.

Pomegranate juice is generally safe to drink. Most studies have used a daily dose of 1.5 ounces of pomegranate juice with no significant side effects.

It is also available in an extract form.
 

 
 

Pomegranate can help with the following:
 
 
Aging  Alzheimer's Disease
 Researchers from Loma Linda University in California (2006) believe that Alzheimer's may be caused by the buildup of plaque from deposits associated with brain cell death due to oxidation, called beta-amyloid deposits. Pomegranate juice, which is high in antioxidant polyphenols, may offer protection against the oxidative stress that causes beta-amyloid deposits.

The researchers studied two groups of transgenic mice that had been genetically engineered to express a protein that eventually leads to Alzheimer's disease. The mice -- aged between six and 12.5 months -- were split into two groups: The first group's diet was supplemented with plain water, and the second group's diet was supplemented with diluted pomegranate juice concentrate. The concentrate was diluted to resemble the strength of commercially sold pomegranate juices.

The researchers then tested the two groups' cognitive function by subjecting the mice to a water maze, which required the animals to swim various distances to find a submerged platform. The group given pomegranate juice negotiated the maze 35 percent faster than the water group, and also swam a more direct path to find the submerged platform compared to the water group.

The researchers then examined the amount of beta-amyloid deposits in the brain cortex of the mice, and found that the group supplemented with pomegranate juice had 50 percent less of the deposits than the non-supplemented mice.

"This study is the first to show beneficial effects (both behavioral and neuropathological) of pomegranate juice in an animal model of (Alzheimer's disease)," wrote lead researcher Richard Hartman.

Circulation

  Hypertension
 In an Israeli study, systolic blood pressure was reduced by 21% after one year of pomegranate juice consumption. This effect is believed to be related to the particularly potent antioxidant properties of pomegranate polyphenols. [Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun;23(3):pp. 423-33]

A similar study at the same research facility examined consumption of pomegranate juice to ascertain its effectiveness in lowering blood pressure. Researchers studied the effect on hypertensive patients of daily consumption of 50 ml of pomegranate juice. After two weeks, a 5% reduction in systolic blood pressure was noted, along with a 36% decrease in serum angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) activity. Reduc-tion in serum ACE activity has previously been shown to attenuate atherosclerosis, independent of its effects on blood pressure. The study authors concluded, “Pomegranate juice can offer wide protection against cardiovascular diseases, which could be related to its inhibitory effect on oxidative stress and on serum ACE activity.” [Atherosclerosis. 2001 Sep;158(1):pp. 195-8]

  Angina

Organ Health

  Diabetes Type II
 Atherosclerosis is associated with roughly 80% of all deaths of patients with diabetes. The study - conducted by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology - examined the effects of daily consumption of pomegranate juice on the development of atherosclerosis.

The researchers, led by Professor Michael Aviram of the Technion Faculty of Medicine, found that diabetic patients who drank 6 ounces of pomegranate juice every day for 90 days experienced a lower risk of developing atherosclerosis.

The study's authors concluded that the juice inhibited the uptake of oxidized "bad" LDL cholesterol by immune cells called macrophages - a process that can bring about the development of atherosclerosis.

Though pomegranate juice contains sugars identical to those found in other fruit juices - which can increase blood sugar and exacerbate diabetes - the sugars found in pomegranate juice did not appear to adversely affect the patients, the researchers found.

"In most juices, sugars are present in free - and harmful - forms," said Aviram. "In pomegranate juice, however, the sugars are attached to unique antioxidants, which actually make these sugars protective against atherosclerosis."

Though the study was fairly small - consisting of only 20 participants - it was part of a larger study aimed at proving the beneficial effects of pomegranate juice on cardiovascular diseases and the oxidation of cholesterol.

Risks

  Increased Risk of Coronary Disease / Heart Attack
 Researchers investigated whether daily consumption of pomegranate juice for three months would affect myocardial perfusion in 45 patients who had coronary heart disease (CHD) and myocardial ischemia in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study.

Patients were randomly assigned into one of two groups: a pomegranate juice group (240 ml/day), or a placebo group that drank a beverage of similar caloric content, amount, flavor, and color. Participants underwent electrocardiographic-gated myocardial perfusion single-photon emission computed tomographic technetium-99m tetrofosmin scintigraphy at rest and during stress at baseline and three months.

According to the study findings, blood flow to the heart improved by 17% in the pomegranate group and declined by 18% in the placebo group. The mean number of angina episodes decreased by 50% in the pomegranate-juice group and increased by 38% in the placebo group. Researchers pointed out that the benefits were realized without any negative effects on lipids, blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, body weight or blood pressure. [Am J Cardiol, September 15, 2005;96(6):810-4.]

  Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer
 Pomegranate juice has been shown to reduce the doubling time of PSA levels in prostate cancer. If it has this effect with patients who have already been treated for prostate cancer, it should have a similar effect in delaying the onset or initiation of prostate cancer.

Pomegranate extract and pomegranate juice may help to protect against prostate cancer by suppressing the expression of genes linked to the disease, say researchers.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles studied the effect of pomegranate polyphenols, ellagitannin-rich extract, and whole juice extract on the expression of genes for key androgen-synthesizing enzymes and the androgen receptor. Results showed that pomegranate polyphenols led to a statistically significant two-fold suppression in the expression of genes linked to prostate cancer, furthermore the polyphenols were also found to stop the spread of prostate cancer and induce cell death (apoptosis) of cancer cells.

The authors concluded: “This study showed that pomegranate products and their polyphenols reduced tumour cell growth and induced apoptosis in both androgen-dependent and androgen-independent prostate cancer cells. These anti-proliferative effects were also consistent in hormone-treated cells. This implies the potential possibility that pomegranate and its polyphenols are used as novel dietary supplements with maximum potential for androgen-dependent and androgen-independent prostate chemoprevention.”

[Young Hong M, Seeram NP, Heber D. Pomegranate polyphenols down-regulate expression of androgen-synthesizing genes in human prostate cancer cells overexpressing the androgen receptor. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2008;19:848-855]

  Increased Risk of Breast Cancer
 The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology research team presented two studies at an international conference in June, 2001 indicating that pomegranate seed oil triggers apoptosis - a self-destruct mechanism in breast cancer cells. Furthermore, pomegranate juice can be toxic to most estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells, while leaving normal breast cells largely unaffected. Estrogen is a hormone often prescribed to protect postmenopausal women against heart disease and osteoporosis.

In the first study, laboratory-grown breast cancer cells were treated for three days with pomegranate seed oil. The researchers observed apoptosis in 37% to 56% of the cancer cells, depending upon the dose of oil applied.

In the second study, both normal and cancerous breast cells were exposed to fermented pomegranate juice (pomegranate wine) and pomegranate peel extracts, which contain polyphenols (powerful antioxidants). The vast majority of the normal cells remained unaffected by the two pomegranate derivatives. But more than 75% of the estrogen-dependent cancer cells, and approximately half of the non-estrogen dependent cancer cells were destroyed by exposure to these same pomegranate products.

"Pomegranates are unique in that the hormonal combinations inherent in the fruit seem to be helpful both for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer," explains Dr. Ephraim Lansky, who headed the studies. "Pomegranates seem to replace needed estrogen often prescribed to protect postmenopausal women against heart disease and osteoporosis, while selectively destroying estrogen-dependent cancer cells."

Dr. Martin Goldman, a New York-based board certified internist and life medicine specialist, notes, "This is apparently a safe substance that could be helpful to many people, especially women at high-risk for developing breast cancer."

Dr. Lajos Pusztai, an assistant professor who studies breast cancer at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, says Dr. Lansky's study "provides a potential new avenue to develop anti-cancer drugs from a natural compound."

Tumors, Malignant

  Prostate Cancer
 Drinking an eight-ounce glass of pomegranate juice daily increased by nearly four times the period during which PSA levels in men treated for prostate cancer remained stable, a three-year UCLA study has found.
The study involved 50 men who had undergone surgery or radiation but quickly experienced increases in prostate-specific antigen or PSA, a biomarker that indicates the presence of cancer. UCLA researchers measured "doubling time," how long it takes for PSA levels to double, a signal that the cancer is progressing, said Dr. Allan Pantuck, an associate professor of urology, a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and lead author of the study.

Doubling time is crucial in prostate cancer, Pantuck said, because patients who have short doubling times are more likely to die from their cancer. The average doubling time is about 15 months. In the UCLA study, Pantuck and his team observed increases in doubling times from 15 months to 54 months, an almost four-fold increase.

"That's a big increase. I was surprised when I saw such an improvement in PSA numbers," Pantuck said. "In older men 65 to 70 who have been treated for prostate cancer, we can give them pomegranate juice and it may be possible for them to outlive their risk of dying from their cancer. We're hoping we may be able to prevent or delay the need for other therapies usually used in this population such as hormone treatment or chemotherapy, both of which bring with them harmful side effects."

[Clinical Cancer Research, July1, 2006]

  Breast Cancer
 The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology research team presented two studies at an international conference in June, 2001 indicating that pomegranate seed oil triggers apoptosis - a self-destruct mechanism in breast cancer cells. Furthermore, pomegranate juice can be toxic to most estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells, while leaving normal breast cells largely unaffected. Estrogen is a hormone often prescribed to protect postmenopausal women against heart disease and osteoporosis.

In the first study, laboratory-grown breast cancer cells were treated for three days with pomegranate seed oil. The researchers observed apoptosis in 37% to 56% of the cancer cells, depending upon the dose of oil applied.

In the second study, both normal and cancerous breast cells were exposed to fermented pomegranate juice (pomegranate wine) and pomegranate peel extracts, which contain polyphenols (powerful antioxidants). The vast majority of the normal cells remained unaffected by the two pomegranate derivatives. But more than 75% of the estrogen-dependent cancer cells, and approximately half of the non-estrogen dependent cancer cells were destroyed by exposure to these same pomegranate products.

"Pomegranates are unique in that the hormonal combinations inherent in the fruit seem to be helpful both for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer," explains Dr. Ephraim Lansky, who headed the studies. "Pomegranates seem to replace needed estrogen often prescribed to protect postmenopausal women against heart disease and osteoporosis, while selectively destroying estrogen-dependent cancer cells."

Dr. Martin Goldman, a New York-based board certified internist and life medicine specialist, notes, "This is apparently a safe substance that could be helpful to many people, especially women at high-risk for developing breast cancer."

Dr. Lajos Pusztai, an assistant professor who studies breast cancer at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, says Dr. Lansky's study "provides a potential new avenue to develop anti-cancer drugs from a natural compound."
 
 


KEY
May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended