fitmommy

Shannon's health and fitness blog

The Power of the Pomegranate

 

When I was a kid my great grandmother had a pomegranate tree right outside her front door.  I would pick them off the tree, pick the seeds out and enjoy their tartness.  She always told me they were good for me.  Little did I know that I should have kept up that healthy habit. My paternal grandmother had Alzheimer’s and I certainly don’t want to inherit this devastating disease.  As a result, I have added 6oz. of pomegranate juice to my daily regimen.Pomegranate juice contains high levels of antioxidants and may help prevent heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have found a strong correlation between oxidative stress and Alzheimer’s disease, and antioxidant rich pomegranate juice may help reverse some of the damage caused by oxidative stress. Pomegranate juice also provides good sources of folate and polyphenols, nutrients that appear to help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  The antioxidants in the juice may also help keep cholesterol in a form that is less damaging, and may also reduce plaque that has already built up in vessels.  Pomegranate juice has been shown to have potent anti-atherogenic effects in healthy humans and in mice with plaque buildup — possibly due to its antioxidative properties, researchers from Israel recently concluded. In their study of healthy male volunteers, pomegranate juice was shown to decrease the likelihood of LDL “bad” cholesterol to form plaque. Another Israeli study showed a decrease in the development of atherosclerosis in mice whose diets were supplemented with pomegranate juice.

 

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is directly related to Alzheimer’s disease onset, according to D. Allan Butterfield, director of the Center of Membrane Sciences at the University of Kentucky. The brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients exhibit intense damage from oxidative stress in the form of free radical formation, inflammation, the degeneration of fats and proteins, and damage to DNA and RNA.

Vitamin E

Pomegranate juice is a good source of vitamin E. Recent research links high concentrations of vitamin E in the diet to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease onset. A 2010 study led by Yian Gu of Columbia University Medical Center followed 2,148 adults 65 years of age and older; of this group, 253 developed Alzheimer’s disease. The group that developed Alzheimer’s ingested significantly less vitamin E in their diet. The researchers hypothesized that vitamin E’s powerful antioxidant effect helped the first group ward off Alzheimer’s. The study results were published in the journal “Archives of Neurology.”

Folate

Pomegranate juice is also an excellent source of folate. Folate deficiency has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Butterfield notes that evidence exists that Alzheimer’s patients are deficient in folate, and that folate supplementation may help to retard the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Pomegranate juice therefore may help Alzheimer’s patients manage their condition and may help to slow down the disease.

Polyphenols

Pomegranate juice is also abundant in polyphenols, which have shown significant positive effects on the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients. Polyphenols boost the brain cells’ resistance to oxidative stress, help to control the degeneration of fats and also appear to avert the death of the cells, notes Butterfield .

Antioxidants in pomegranates include polyphenols, such as tannins and anthocyanins. In fact, pomegranates may have even more antioxidant power than cranberry juice or green tea, Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, a nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research, has written in the AICR’s “Nutrition Wise” newsletter.

As for other possible health benefits, while more studies are needed, there are indications that:

  • Pomegranate juice may improve blood flow to the heart in people with ischemic coronary heart disease (CHD). In a study of 45 people with CHD and myocardial ischemia (in which not enough blood gets to the heart muscle), participants who drank about 8 fluid ounces of pomegranate juice daily for 3 months had less ischemia during a stress test. Study participants who did not drink the juice, meanwhile, had evidence of more stress-induced ischemia. The study noted no negative effects to drinking pomegranate juice (even on blood sugar levels or body weight). Lead researcher, Dean Ornish, MD, believes pomegranate juice may even be able to help prevent heart disease in people who do not already have it.
  • Pomegranate juice may slow prostate cancer growth. Antioxidants are known to help prevent and repair DNA damage that can lead to cancer. “Pomegranate juice won’t fend off cancer by itself, but studies suggest it may be a wonderful addition to the balanced, plant-based diet recommended by the American Institute of Cancer Research,” says Collins. Men who have already had preliminary treatment for prostate cancer may benefit from a daily dose of pomegranate juice. The juice appeared to suppress the growth of cancer cells and the increase in cancer cell death in lab testing, according to research from UCLA. Allan Pantuck, MD, said in an email interview that he guesses a combination of elements in pomegranates — rather than any single component — is probably responsible for these health effects.
 
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February 20, 2012 - Posted by | Elderly, Food, Health | , , , , , , ,

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