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Pomegranate Juice: Elixir of Life?
September 22, 2006
Free radicals, or molecules with an unpaired electron, are prevalent throughout the body, attacking and damaging cells and DNA to the extent that they may be a leading cause of disease. Free radicals are nearly unavoidable since they are produced by alcohol consumption, inhalation of polluted air, sunlight exposure, tobacco smoke, and the body itself. Antioxidants are molecules that can neutralize these free radicals before they can do damage thus preventing such maladies as cancer, heart disease, and premature aging.
Pomegranate fruit has a very high content of naturally occurring antioxidants that, when ingested, should be utilized by the body to neutralize free radicals from doing damage to the body. The antioxidants that occur in fruits and vegetables are called polyphenols. Pomegranate juice has a very high antioxidant content with a measurement of 6.1 polyphenols per mM, which is above red wine (5.2), blueberry juice (4.3), and green tea (1.0) (1). In addition to a high antioxidant content, pomegranate juice also has very high “quality” polyphenols that act efficiently in the body to neutralize harmful free radicals. Using the DPH testing method, pomegranate juice was found to neutralize 71% of the free radicals it came into contact with. This is one of the most effective sources of antioxidants, better than red wine (46%), blueberry juice (33%), and green tea (10%) (2).
Antioxidants, like those found in pomegranate juice, are believed to have many health benefits. Concerning heart health, free radicals are known to oxidize low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, effectively converting it into plaque that can clog the arteries and cause heart attacks. By ingesting antioxidants, it is believed one can prevent the conversion of cholesterol into plaque, thus preventing heart problems in the future.
In addition, antioxidants are believed to prevent many types of cancer. Cancer is the unchecked growth of abnormal cells that have damaged DNA. Since the DNA is damaged in some way, perhaps due to interactions with free radicals, the cell is not aware when to cease the growth process and thus has turned cancerous. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables that contain polyphenol antioxidants may prevent free radicals from damaging DNA, thus preventing or slowing the on-set of various types of cancers.
Much of this information was collected from the Pom Wonderful© website, a popular distributor of 100% pomegranate juice. Although their website is very informative, it is obviously biased to be in favor of drinking pomegranate juice.
Testing the Claims:
Research concerning the health benefits of drinking pomegranate juice on a daily basis have centered around its effects on heart health and cancer:
Effects of Pomegranate Juice Consumption on Myocardial Perfusion in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease
In this study, 45 randomized patients with ischemic coronary heart disease were given either 240 ml/day of pomegranate juice or a placebo of similar color and consistency. At the baseline, all of the participants had similar levels of stress-induced ischemia. As the study progressed, the myocardial perfusion levels in the patients were tested under stress using computer-imaging technology. At the study’s conclusion, it was found that the pomegranate juice group had a decrease in stress-induced ischemia by -0.8 whereas the placebo-control group had an increase by +1.2. These results suggest that pomegranate juice can have favorable benefits in patients with coronary heart disease.
Pomegranate Juice Consumption for 3 Years by Patients with Carotid Artery Stenosis Reduces Common Carotid Intima-Media Thickness, Blood Pressure and LDL Oxidation
In this study, 19 randomized participants, ages 65-75, underwent a three year study to investigate the benefits of pomegranate juice on plaque levels in the arteries as well as several other coronary health factors. Ten of the participants were given 8 ounces of pomegranate juice for one year while the nine remaining participants served as the control group and were given nothing. Intima-media thickness (IMT) measurements of the arterial walls were taken in all of the patients at the beginning of the study and every three months following for one year. The results showed that those that drank pomegranate juice had a decrease in IMT of up to 30% while those that did not drink the juice had an increase of 9%. In addition, the participants that drank the juice also showed a decrease in LDL cholesterol oxidation by 90%. These benefits were maintained in five of the participants for an additional two years. These results indicate that the consumption of pomegranate juice can have very beneficial effects on coronary health.
Breast cancer chemopreventive properties of pomegranate (Punica granatum) fruit extracts in a mouse mammary organ culture.
In this study, cell cultures of mouse mammary glands were treated with pomegranate fermented juice polyphenols, a high-performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) peak separated from the pomegranate juice, or pomegranate seed oil for ten days. On day three, the cultures were exposed to DMBA carcinogens. The glands were then harvested and tumors were counted visually. The results showed a 42% reduction in the number of lesions as compared with the control group when pomegranate fermented juice polyphenols were used. There was an 87% reduction in the number of lesions with both the HPLC and pomegranate seed oil. These results indicate that pomegranate juice can be very effective in reducing the number of lesions in cancerous mammary cells.
Pomegranate fruit juice for chemoprevention and chemotherapy of prostate cancer.
In this study, human prostate cancer cells were exposed to pomegranate fruit extract in order to evaluate its antiproliferative and proapoptotic properties. By using 10-100 micrograms of pomegranate extract per microliter of prostate cells, it was found that there was a significant reduction of cancer cell growth and vitality. In addition, oral administration of pomegranate extract (0.1% and 0.2%, wt/vol) to mice with androgen-sensitive CWR22Rnu1 cells resulted in a significant inhibition in tumor growth. These results indicate that pomegranate extract may have significant beneficial effects on the growth of cancerous prostate cells.
Pomegranate fruit has one of the highest antioxidant contents of any fruit in the world as well as some of the most effective antioxidants. These antioxidants neutralize free radicals in the body that are believed to cause diseases such as coronary heart disease and cancer. Based on the research presented above concerning the effects of pomegranate juice on heart health and cancer treatment, it is clear that the naturally these occurring antioxidants can serve as a safe and rather effective treatment. This theory can be proved further through more extensive studies.
Aviram, M. 11th Biennial Meeting of the Society for Free Radical Research International, Paris, 2002. (1)
Aviram, M. Technion Faculty of Medicine, 2004. (2)
Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Gaitini D, Nitecki S, Hoffman A, Dornfeld, Volkova N, Presser D, Attias J, Liker H, Hayek T. Clinical Nutrition (2004), 23: 423-433.
Malik A, Afaq F, Sarfaraz S, Adhami VM, Syed DN, Mukhtar H. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. October 11, 2005; 102(41); 14813-14818.
Mehta R, Lansky EP. European Journal of Cancer Prevention. August, 2004; 13(4); 345-348.
Pom Wonderful “Health Benefits” http://www.pomwonderful.com
Sumner MD, Elliott-Eller M, Weidner G, Daubenmier JJ, Chew MH, Marlin R, Raisin CJ, Ornish D. The American Journal of Cardiology. September 15, 2005; 96: 810-814.
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