Fruits and vegetables are traditional heart-smart foods. However, before you grab your usual apple or celery snack, learn how nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich pomegranates provide significant heart disease protection.
What Makes the Pomegranate a Superfood?
One of the world’s oldest fruits, the pomegranate (punica granatum) is an original native of Persia. People around the world have used it as a folk medicine for thousands of years. Many cultures and religions revere this fruit as a symbol of health, fertility and eternal life.
Only the seeds and juice inside this red fruit’s tough outer layer are edible. They boast high levels of flavonoids and polyphenols, chemicals in plants that provide their flavor and color. Polyphenols also are antioxidants that help protect cells from damage and may lower inflammation. One pomegranate provides about 40 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement. A glass of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberries and cranberries.
The Real Benefits of Pomegranates
A research team set out to find a treatment to control the two main causes of atherosclerosis: high bad LDL cholesterol levels and cholesterol oxidation. They tested combining low-dose Statin Therapy with pomegranate concentrate to manage both of these risk factors. The study published in “Atherosclerosis” showed this new treatment approach lowers high blood cholesterol levels significantly and delays cholesterol oxidation.
Statins, traditional cholesterol-lowering drugs for heart and cardiovascular disease patients, hinder the production of cholesterol in your body and lower its levels in your blood. Phytosterols (Beta Sitosterol), cholesterol-like molecules in pomegranates, lower cholesterol levels by hindering cholesterol absorption naturally. These two methods double your body’s cholesterol-lowering power.
The potent punicalagin antioxidants in pomegranates slow down cholesterol oxidation. That helps offset atherosclerosis, so blood flows freely to your heart and brain. Researchers concluded that statins and concentrates of pomegranate juice can reduce the risk of high cholesterol and delay heart disease’s consequences of heart attack and stroke.
Even More Good News About Pomegranates
Many clinical findings report the pomegranate is one of the most powerful foods for overall good health. They show a correlation between pomegranate compounds and their positive effects on multiple medical conditions.
Myocardial ischemia. A three-month study found drinking pomegranate juice daily helped coronary heart disease patients lower stress-induced myocardial ischemia and poor blood flow to the heart muscle while improving myocardial perfusion. The Preventive Medicine Research Institute’s results showed that study participants who drank one cup of pomegranate juice experienced a 17 percent improvement in blood flow to their hearts. Likewise, the conditions of those who drank a placebo beverage worsened by an average of 18 percent. Researchers attributed the positive effects to the high levels of polyphenols, vegetable chemical substances in pomegranates that act as antioxidants.
Carotid artery stenosis. During a three-year study, drinking pomegranate juice reduced common carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), LDL oxidation and blood pressure in carotid artery stenosis patients. In the pomegranate-free control group, IMT increased by nine percent in the first year. During the same time, pomegranate juice consumers had a significant IMT reduction of up to 30 percent. Their blood pressure also dropped by over 12 percent
Diabetes. Research shows pomegranate juice and extract concentrates improve blood sugar control in Type 2 diabetics. Supplements increase insulin efficiency and decrease insulin resistance, which improve fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels. In addition, pomegranate supplements reduce LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides and bring down high blood pressure. An eight-week study showed that one and half ounces of concentrated pomegranate juice improved lipid profiles in Type 2 diabetic patients.
Osteoarthritis. This condition occurs when the cartilage in joints wears down, causing pain and stiffness. A study indicated pomegranate fruit extracts can block enzymes that contribute to osteoarthritis and slow cartilage deterioration. Other researchers believe flavonol antioxidants in pomegranates can help prevent inflammation that leads to cartilage destruction.
Kidney dialysis. Blood flowing through the dialyzer enhances free radical release, which adds to high oxidative stress and inflammation levels. A yearlong study compared patients who drank 3.38 ounces of pomegranate juice against those who consumed a placebo three times a week as each dialysis session started. Participants who drank pomegranate juice showed reduced inflammation and free radical damage. They were less likely to need hospitalization due to infections. In addition, they had improved lipid profiles, lower blood pressure and fewer heart problems. Researchers concluded pomegranates can help prevent cardiovascular-related conditions and infections, the two most common causes of kidney disease deaths.
Cancer. When recurrent prostate cancer study participants drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice per day, their PSA levels took much longer to rise. The average pre-study PSA doubling time that measured tumor activity was 15 months. Treatment extended that to 37 months, almost a two-year increase. Testing also showed decreased cancer cell division and proliferation plus increased cancer cell death. Other studies suggest pomegranate compounds inhibit leukemia as well as breast and colon cancers.
A safe daily pomegranate juice quantity is up to 12 ounces typically, but lower amounts may provide health benefits. Choose 100 percent juice with no added sugar to make sure you get all the good stuff. Before adding pomegranate juice to your daily diet, consult your doctor for possible interactions with supplements and prescription medications. If you have diabetes, ask your doctor about drinking any fruit juice.