It’s tasty, exotic and even fashionable, but most importantly, this red marvel has Endless Health Benefits which have earned it a “superfood” status, and rightfully so.
The pomegranate, scientifically known as Punica Granatum, is a fruit bearing shrub, growing 5-8 m tall. For centuries, pomegranates have been regarded as a treasure among fruits. In ancient times, the Babylonians would chew the seeds before battle, believing it would make them invincible, And ancient Egyptians were buried with pomegranates. In modern times, the pomegranate is a popular addition to Middle Eastern, Indian and Iranian cuisines. In the last couple of years this “jewel of winter” as it’s sometimes referred to, became widely known for its powerful health benefits. An increasing numbers of studies confirm what many cultures have known for centuries: the pomegranate is as abundant with health benefits as it is with taste.
Antioxidants are the naturally occurring substances that protect the body from free radicals, which are highly reactive atoms or molecules that can damage DNA and cell membranes. This cellular damage has been linked to many diseases, including Alzheimer’s, ALS, Atherosclerosis, Diabetes and cancer. Free radicals are abounding in our modern society in the form of pollutants, food additives, pesticides, herbicides, cigarette smoke, etc.
Research shows that pomegranate juice contains the highest antioxidant capacity compared to other juices, red wine, green tea, tomatoes, vitamin E and other headline makers. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have independently confirmed that pomegranate juice contains at least three major antioxidants. Pomegranate juice has three times the antioxidant power of red wine or green tea (using the Trolox Equivalent Antioxidant Capacity test).
Protects the Heart
A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that pomegranate juice is effective in reducing heart disease risk factors, including the oxidation of LDL (“bad” cholesterol), foam cell formation and macrophage oxidative status – all of which are steps in atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. It has also been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by inhibiting serum levels of Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE). All of the above actions contribute to the preventative effect that pomegranate juice has on related diseases, like heart attacks and strokes. “The protective effects of pomegranate juice were higher than previously assumed,” said Claudio Napoli, the study’s author and a professor of medicine and clinical pathology at the University of Naples, Italy.
Pomegranate extract may be useful in fighting osteoarthritis. A study at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine shows that extract of pomegranate fruit inhibits Interleukin-1b (IL-1b), a pro-inflammatory protein molecule that plays a key role in cartilage degradation. Researchers said their findings “indicate the pomegranate fruit extract or compounds derived from it may inhibit cartilage degradation in osteoarthritis and may also be a useful nutritive supplement for maintaining joint integrity and function.”
Fights Breast Cancer
Israeli researchers have found that pomegranates could have important implications for breast cancer treatment and the safety of oestrogen replacement therapy. Technion-Israel Institute of Technology found that pomegranate seed oil triggers apoptosis, a self-destruct mechanism, in breast cancer cells. In addition, pomegranate juice can be toxic to most estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells, while leaving normal breast cells largely unaffected.
“Pomegranates seem to replace the estrogen often prescribed to protect postmenopausal women against heart disease and osteoporosis, while selectively destroying dependent-dependent cancer cells,” explains Dr. Ephraim Lansky, who headed the studies.
Keeps Prostate Cancer From Returning
A study found that pomegranate juice may help fight the return of prostate cancer among men who have had surgery or radiation for the disease. The study included 48 men who had surgery or radiation therapy to treat localized prostate cancer. When the study started in 2003, the men’s PSA levels doubled every 15 months. In prostate cancer patients, PSA is used to monitor their cancer.
All of the men drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily, and that slowed down the time it took for their PSA levels to double, researchers reported in 2006.
After that, the researchers followed the patients every three months. Fifteen of the patients stayed with the study for up to five years, and it typically took four times longer for their PSA levels to double when they were drinking pomegranate juice, compared to their PSA doubling time at the study’s start.
“Pomegranate juice contains antioxidant chemicals that may have cancer-preventing benefits,” the researchers said.
Possibly Prevents diabetes
A new study suggests that one of the benefits of pomegranate seed oil may be increased insulin sensitivity. In this study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers gave a group of mice a high fat diet, while a second group received a high fat diet along with pomegranate seed oil. A third group was given a normal diet. At the end of the study, the mice given the high fat diet along with the pomegranate seed oil gained ten grams less weight than the group given only the high fat diet. The group that received the pomegranate seed oil also had lower levels of leptin and higher levels of adipenectin, a hormone that increases insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity was also increased in the mice given the pomegranate seed oil. All of these changes are synonymous with better blood sugar control and a lower risk of developing type II diabetes. Pomegranate seed oil contains CLA (conjugated linolenic acid), a fatty acid that some studies show can increase insulin sensitivity. Researchers believe it could be this component that accounts for the
reduced risk of developing diabetes.
Rejuvenates the Skin
Pomegranate seed oil is gaining increased attention by cosmetics manufacturers and aromatherapy industries due to its remarkable ability to nourish, moisturize and repair the epidermis and improve skin elasticity. A study conducted by the University of Michigan Medical School have shown that pomegranate seed oil stimulates keratinocyte proliferation, promoting regeneration of the epidermis.
This study joins a growing body of research supporting the benefits of pomegranate seed oil as a skin treatment, including a 2003 South Dakota State University study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food that showed that a topical application of pomegranate seed oil significantly decreased the incidence of skin cancer in mice that had been exposed to cancer causing chemicals.
In conclusion, it seems that using Pomegranate juice and/or oil is a pleasant and effective way to increase one’s overall health and help the body ward off illness.