Discover the Powers of Pomegranate

When you were a kid, your mom probably didn’t pack a pomegranate alongside your sandwich for lunch. It’s only been in the past decade or so that this ruby-red fruit has surged in popularity and become a superstar in the world of preventive health, thanks to its rich nutritional profile.

If you haven’t made pomegranate a part of your diet, you may want to reconsider. Here’s why.

Packs a Powerful Polyphenol Punch

Your overall health—and your ability to ward off some of the most complicated diseases of our time—is determined, at least in part, by your ability to hold inflammation and oxidation at bay.

Together, these destructive processes are responsible for most of the chronic and degenerative illnesses that threaten us as adults. Our bodies come with a limited complement of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds to protect us. But poor diet, lack of exercise, and other environmental factors quickly deplete these reserves, leaving us at risk.

With a diet rich in natural compounds called polyphenols, found mostly in fruits, vegetables, and tea, we can limit, prevent, and even reverse the health problems caused by inflammatory and oxidative processes.

Polyphenols are a huge group of compounds made by plants to protect themselves.

When a plant is exposed to an environmental stressor, it increases the production of polyphenols, which then orchestrate a protective response for the plant.

Several polyphenolic compounds do the same thing for us. When we eat plants and fruits that are rich in certain polyphenols, they act like natural drugs to protect us.

There are more than 8,000 known polyphenols (and counting). Some sources aren’t very concentrated, and some polyphenols aren’t very potent. But the pomegranate is a premium polyphenol “superfruit.” Some research indicates that it provides a greater supply of polyphenols than other well-known sources, including red wine, Concord grape, blueberry, black cherry, acai, cranberry, orange, and black, green, and white teas. According to one report, pomegranate’s antioxidant activity is more than 20 percent greater than its top competitors; another ranks pomegranate two to three times more powerful than red wine.

Additionally, pomegranate not only blocks inflammation but actually turns off the genes that turn inflammation on. Extracts from the arils, seeds, and peel of the pomegranate have separate therapeutic properties and mechanisms of action, so combining extracts from the whole pomegranate (or from juice made by pressing the whole pomegranate) yields greater benefits than when using individual parts.

Here are just a few ways pomegranate may influence your health for the better.

A Healthier Heart

Pomegranate’s polyphenols may interfere with the oxidation that damages the coronary arteries, as well as the oxidation of LDL cholesterol into the plaque that stiffens and pinches coronary vessels and causes high blood pressure and heart attacks. And they help to reduce the clot-promoting behavior of platelets that causes strokes.

In one trial, after drinking 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily for three years, patients with stiffened, pinched carotid arteries had significantly lower blood pressure, less LDL oxidation, and more flexible, open carotids. And in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of people with at least one cardiovascular issue, just three months of drinking pomegranate juice daily resulted in significantly less stress-induced heart muscle damage from decreased blood supply (ischemia), while the control group’s ischemia increased.

Cancer Protection

Pomegranate has anticancer benefits that are both aggressive (suppressing and even killing cancerous cells) and compassionate (little to no effect on healthy cells).

Laboratory studies and clinical trials on men with prostate cancer show that pomegranate polyphenols flood the gland, attack affected cells, leave healthy cells intact, and significantly slow the increase in PSA levels seen in prostate cancer. One mechanism is pomegranate’s ability to down-regulate the genes that encourage prostate cancer growth and invasiveness.

This same review showed that pomegranate inhibits an enzyme that leads to estrogen-dependent breast cancer, and slows the oxidation and inflammation that can accelerate its spread. The polyphenols can also reduce the number and activation of melanin-producing cells in the epidermis—a hedge against skin cancer.

Pomegranate also appears to attack the chronic inflammation linked to the development of colon cancer. It does so by dampening bowel inflammation, down-regulating pro-cancer pathways, reducing cancer cell proliferation and invasiveness, hastening death of cancer cells, and compassionately sparing healthy cells.

Neurodegenerative Diseases

The chronic inflammation typically found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease expands and accelerates brain degeneration. But pomegranate polyphenols may dampen that inflammatory process, possibly reducing the disease’s progression.

Two polyphenols in particular—punicalagin and ellagic acid—have been found to potentially block the inflammation through several biochemical pathways. The same benefits may even apply in other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

In a rigorous, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, older people already having memory problems drank either 8 ounces of pomegranate juice or a flavor-matched placebo, for four weeks. Before-and-after cognitive tests showed significant improvement in memory in the pomegranate juice group.

Healthy Teeth and Gums

As if all these benefits aren’t impressive enough, pomegranates appear to take action the second they enter your mouth!

In a controlled study, instead of brushing their teeth, patients with braces on their teeth swished with either pomegranate extract rinse, a rather toxic antiseptic called chlorhexidine, or with a placebo. After one day, the growth of plaque-forming bacteria in the mouths of the placebo group was 11 percent suppressed, while in the pomegranate group’s mouths it was 84 percent suppressed—a nontoxic equivalent to that of the chlorexidine group!

We’ve Only Scratched the Surface…

Thus far, I believe we’ve only scratched the surface of pomegranate’s health benefits. Preliminary research shows great promise in preventing and recovering from other inflammatory diseases such as asthma, allergies, eczema, emphysema and COPD, as well as diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

I believe the benefits of an 8-ounce glass of pomegranate juice per day, made from the whole fruit (including seeds and peel), are just too good to pass up.

While whole fruit is always the best option, if you prefer to take a supplement, you can get similar benefits from a pomegranate extract supplement. For best results, make sure it’s premium quality and made from whole pomegranate.

About Author

Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews is the President of Gene Smart and the leader of our Gene Smart team. His mission is to provide supplements to help you control your inflammation, your weight, and your life, based on the latest scientific information.

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