The hidden health benefits of pomegranate.

Few can argue that a good diet goes a long way to maintaining health but as various foods reveal their hidden secrets and we are just discovering the real healing powers of the food we eat. With heart disease forever on the rise in the UK the news that the humble pomegranate could help reduce the risk of heart and circulatory disease was met with great interest by doctors and patients alike. Pomegranates have long been known to deliver a high concentration of antioxidants, more so that green tea and red wine, but not much was known about the real power of the pomegranate on health. In general, antioxidants are good for us. They help to reduce the damaging effects of a stressful life and improve the health of tissues that can become affected by inflammation. In the cardiovascular system its the smooth lining of blood vessels that shows the impact of stress and inflammation with the generation of thickenings known as plaques that can eventually encroach on the hollow blood vessel reducing the flow of blood. As time passes, such a reduced blood flow can seriously influence the organ that relies on it; in the case of the heart this can lead to a heart attack or a stroke if the brain’s circulation is affected. The damaging chemicals generated by bad diet, smoking and stress are known as free radicals. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals and neutralize them before they can  cause trouble. Interestingly, the use of pomegranate to help off set heart disease has been the focus of research first in Haifa, Israel, then followed in 2004 by a UK team from the Hammersmith Hospital in London and reported by the BBC’s on line news service. What drew their interest was the remarkably high concentrations of soluble antioxidants known as polyphenols and anthocyanins of which the phenol compound known as ellagic acid appears to be responsible for the bulk of the fruits health benefits. What became evident from the study that followed people over 3 years was that those who regularly consumed pomegranate juice enjoyed many cardiovascular benefits above and over those of non-pomegranate users. The benefits included a lowering of blood pressure, promotion of a healthier blood fat profile and improvement in the health of the artery wall. Their research was backed up by some impressive results all of which indicated a real benefit to the heart and circulatory system of regular pomegranate consumption.

Hot on the heels of the positive effects of pomegranate on heart health comes work that suggests an equally powerful effect on male prostate health. Preventing disease in the prostate looks to be well suited to nutritional measures. Its been estimated that slowly accumulating levels of inflammation, over some 15 years, lies at the centre of many non-cancerous prostate problems. Pomegranate consumption has been shown to significantly reduce the inflammation that eventually causes trouble in the gland and beneficially influence various blood test results that are used to monitor the health of the prostate gland. It’s interesting that the tradition of breaking a pomegranate open at a wedding as a symbol of fertility still occurs in Greece today reflecting its long association with promoting reproductive health.

If you don’t fancy drinking or eating a daily serving of two of pomegranate then consider the whole fruit dietary supplement by Natures Way. It’s standardised to contain 40% ellagic acid, the key antioxidant in pomegranate, and is supplied in vegetarian capsules. Just two capsules a day is a convenient way to get your pomegranate is your not actually a fan of the fruit!

Further reading

Pomegranate and PSA

University of Maryland pomegranate review

In vitro antiproliferative, apoptotic and antioxidant activities of punicalagin, ellagic acid and a total pomegranate tannin extract are enhanced in combination with other polyphenols as found in pomegranate juice. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry

Pomegranate and blood pressure study. Atherosclerosis 158 (2001) 195–198

Pomegranate and cardiovascular health. Drugs & Experimental Clinical Research (2002) 49-62

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