Pomegranate is high in antioxidants and other nutrients, so some people think that drinking pomegranate juice regularly may help prevent cancer.
In test tubes, pomegranate extracts made from juice, rind, and oil slow down the reproduction of cancer cells and may hasten their death. Some extracts also help reduce blood supply to tumors, starving them and making them smaller. Most studies have focused on breast, prostate, and colon cancer cells. In one other study, pomegranate juice extract given to mice slowed down the growth of lung tumors. However, most of these studies have been in test tubes or in animals, not in humans.
In one human study, men who had surgery or radiation for prostate cancer lengthened the amount of time it took for their PSA levels to double by drinking 8 oz. of pomegranate juice each day. Men whose PSA levels double in a short period of time are at higher risk of death from prostate cancer. Those who drank pomegranate juice increased the time it took for their PSA levels to double from about 15 months to 54 months.
If you are being treated for cancer, be sure to ask your oncologist before you take pomegranate or any herb or supplement. Pomegranate may interact with cancer medications, making the medications less effective.
Pomegranate's high antioxidant content has also made researchers wonder if it could treat heart disease.
Pomegranate juice seems to protect LDL (bad) cholesterol from damage. Some scientists think that damage to LDL cholesterol causes plaque to build up in arteries, so stopping the damage might help keep arteries clear. One study of mice with atherosclerosis found that pomegranate juice slowed the growth of plaque formation. A few small human studies in people found that pomegranate juice improved blood flow and kept arteries from becoming thick and stiff. More and better studies are needed to see exactly what benefit pomegranate juice might offer.
Preliminary evidence suggests that drinking pomegranate juice every day may help lower systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) but not diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number). Other studies suggest that prolonged pomegranate juice intake improves cardiovascular risk factors, slowing the progression of plaque build up on the arteries and enhancing immunity.
Flavonols (a kind of antioxidant) similar to the ones found in pomegranate fruit have been suggested as treatments for osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage in joints wears down and causes pain and stiffness.
Researchers believe flavonols can help block inflammation that contributes to the destruction of cartilage. In test tubes, pomegranate extract blocked the production of an enzyme that destroys cartilage in the body. In one review of the scientific literature, researchers concluded that all of the studies reported positive effects of pomegranate juice or extract on osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. The results were promising; however, more studies, and studies that look at the effects in humans, are needed.
Preliminary studies show that dietary pomegranate produces brain anti-inflammatory effects that may help stall the progression of Alzheimer Disease. Other studies suggest drinking 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily helps improve performance in tasks related to learning and memory. Pomegranate also has antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory effects in the gastrointestinal tract.
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