Amber Lanier Nagle
In ancient cultures, pomegranates were symbols of health and vitality. Today, studies confirm that the pomegranate posesses numerous health-promoting benefits.
In ancient cultures, pomegranates were symbols of life, regeneration, health, and vitality. In Babylon and Persia, soldiers chewed pomegranate seeds before battle, believing that the exotic fruits would reward them with superior skills and invincibility. The Egyptians placed pomegranates in King Tut’s tomb, to help him in his afterlife.
Today, studies are confirming that the pomegranate and its juice possesses numerous health-promoting benefits. Not only are they rich in vitamin C and potassium, they are loaded with potent antioxidants such as soluble polyphenols, tannins, and anthocyanins that help prevent and repair the cellular damage of disease-causing free radicals.
Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease
Researchers at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute (PMRI) in Sausalito, California, found that drinking 8 ounces (250 mL) of pomegranate juice each day for three months increases blood flow to the heart muscle of patients with coronary heart disease by 17 percent. Blood flow of the study’s placebo group decreased by 18 percent.
Moreover, Israeli researchers concluded that pomegranates are effective in treating atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque accumulates on the walls of arteries. Published in a 2004 issue of Clinical Nutrition, the study focused on the common carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), a marker for atherosclerosis. The IMT of subjects who drank pomegranate juice decreased by 30 percent after one year, whereas the IMT increased by 9 percent among control group patients.
Effective Against Some Cancers
Several epidemiological and animal studies indicate that pomegranate juices and extracts possess promising cancer-fighting properties. For example, consuming pomegranate juice may significantly slow the growth of prostate cancer cells. In a study of 46 men at Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California Los Angeles, researchers found that the length of time it took to double levels of the prostate specific antigen (PSA), a marker for prostate cancer, was significantly longer in men who consumed 8 ounces (250 mL) of pomegranate juice daily over a two-year period.
According to another study, this one conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and published in the International Journal of Cancer, pomegranate fruit extract contains an anti-skin cancer agent. Their study demonstrated that in CD-1 mice with high susceptibility to chemically induced cancers, when treated topically with pomegranate extract, only 30 percent developed skin cancer after 16 weeks compared to 100 percent of untreated mice.
Further in 2001, researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology found that pomegranate seed oil triggered a self-destruct mechanism in breast cancer cells within their study group.
Science is just beginning to uncover the pomegranate’s health and wellness potential and its role in our fight against disease.