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with Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

Elaine Magee's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support she has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Pomegranate Power

As a kid I would be one of the only people in my family willing to “work” at eating a pomegranate… Patiently peeling away each pomegranate kernel until you got a mouth’s worth in your hand, then popping them into your mouth and carefully sucking away the juicey outside then spitting out the hard internal seeds. Somehow no matter how careful I was, I still ended up with pink hands and a few surprise pomegranate juice stains on my shirt.

Now all that fruity fun has been eliminated for you and you can buy pomegranate juice in bottles at your friendly neighborhood grocery store! It’s rather pricey though in terms of the green stuff and calories, so you might think about mixing it with some mineral or seltzer water so a little goes a longer way.

Why should you give these pomegranate juice bottles a second look?

  • It does have a unique, pleasant flavor.
  • The color is amazing and can add a splash of red to your smoothies, beverages or other recipes.
  • Pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants

    Pomegranates have a plethora of phytochemicals! About half of the fruit’s antioxidant ability comes from the phytochemical, punicalagin, a member of the polyphenol phytochemical family. When you eat or drink pomegranates you are also getting some catechins (phytochemicals we also get in green tea), isoflavones (phytoestrogens we get from soy), and anthocyanins (like we do when we eat dark berries and other purple foods).

    Pomegranate juice may improve blood flow to the heart in people with ischemic coronary heart disease (CHD).

    In a small study with 45 people who have CHD and myocardial ischemia (not enough oxygen getting the heart), half of them received 8.5 ounces of pomegranate juice each day for three months and the other half received a placebo drink (fake drink with similar calories, color and flavor). The researchers reported that blood flow to the heart improved by about 17% in the pomegranate juice drinkers and decreased by 18% in the placebo group. No negative effect to drinking pomegranate juice were noted (even on blood glucose levels or body weight).
    [The Am J of Cardiology Sept 15 2005, vol 96 Issue 6 pages 810-814 Ornish D., et al. "Effects of Pomegranate Juice Consumption on Mycardial Perfusion in Patients with Coronary Heart Disease"]

    What about those of us fortunate enough not to have ischemic coronary heart disease? Lead researcher, Dean Ornish, M.D., believes pomegranate juice may even be able to help prevent heart disease in people who do not already suffer from it.

    Pomegranate juice has potent antiatherogenic effects

    Pomegranate juice has potent antiatherogenic effects in healthy humans and in atherosclerotic mice-possible due to its antioxidative properties, some researchers from Israel recently concluded. In their study with healthy male volunteers, pomegranate juice decreased the LDL “bad” cholesterol susceptibility to aggregation and retention and increased the activity (by 20%) of an HDL (“good” cholesterol) – associated enzyme (called esterase), that can protect against lipid peroxidation.
    [Am J Clin Nutr May 2000 Vol 71 No. 5 pages 1062-1076 Aviram M., et al, "Pomegranate juice consumption reduces oxidative stress, atherogenic modifications to LDL, and platelet aggregation: studies in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice"]

    Pomegranate juice could slow prostate cancer growth

    Men diagnosed with prostate cancer who have already had preliminary treatment, may benefit from a daily dose of pomegranate juice – which appears to suppress further growth and delay the need for further therapies, according to brand new research from UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center. The researchers also found that drinking the juice decreased the amount of free radicals in the blood by 40% compared to baseline. Lab tests during the study showed a 12% decrease in the spread of the cancer (cell proliferation) and a 17% increase in the programmed cell death of the cancer (apoptosis). [Clinical Cancer Research 2006 Vol 12 pages 4018-4026 Pantuck, A., et al]

    To what (in pomegranate juice) do we owe this pleasure? UCLA researcher, Allan Pantuck, M.D., guesses it is probably a combination of elements in pomegranates, rather than a single component, that is responsible for these favorable health effects in the body. Could it be the power that seems to be in pomegranates is another example of plant synergy? Makes sense to me!

    Yes, more research needs to be done on pomegranate juice for us to know anything definitive about its benefits and possible side effects, but so far, the future certainly looks bright for this vibrant, fushia-colored fruit.


    Related Topics: 7 Designer Products Worth Buying, Juicy News for Fruit Lovers

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  • Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 1:42 pm

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