Pomegranate Juice: Cardiovascular Health and Cancer
A recent study claims that drinking a small amount of pomegranate juice every day can reverse hardening of the arteries–specifically, the carotid arteries that carry blood from the neck to the brain.1
This is not the first study connecting pomegranate juice to significant health benefits. Earlier work has shown a blood pressure lowering action in people with hypertension, and work supporting additional cardiovascular benefit is soon to be published.2
In addition to its effect on heart health, there is also interest in using pomegranate juice, or juice extracts, as a cancer preventative. In animals, it has been shown to prevent the formation of skin cancers when applied topically, and in another study, the antioxidants from fermented pomegranate juice were shown to significantly inhibit cancer formation in mice, leading the scientists to conclude that "clinical trials to further assess chemopreventive and adjuvant therapeutic applications of pomegranate in human breast cancer may be warranted."3
What is so special about pomegranate juice? It may not be pomegranate juice itself, but the types of compounds it, and other fruits, contain. Pomegranate juice contains an array of powerful antioxidants including phenolic compounds, tannins, and anthocyanins.
Dr. Alan Gaby, in a Healthnotes Newswire release, explains that "Oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL, the molecules that carry the "bad" cholesterol) is an important step in atherosclerosis development, and antioxidants that are capable of blocking LDL oxidation might be useful for preventing the disease."4
Indeed, similar studies have shown that other sources of natural polyphenol and anthocyanidin antioxidants have the same benefits, including grapes, green tea, etc.
The antioxidant found in grapes and red wine known as reservatrol "may be useful for the prevention of UVB-mediated cutaneous damages, including skin cancer," according to the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Another study from the same University showed similar protective activity from a pomegranate fruit extract on mice.5
Green tea may also help prevent cancer, according to a study led by Iman Hakim, M.D., Ph.D., from Phoenix's Arizona Cancer Center. Over a period of four months, 118 smokers drank four cups of either green or black decaffeinated tea daily. Researchers measured levels of urinary 8-OHgD, a chemical the body releases in response to oxidative DNA damage; those who drank green tea had a 31-percent decrease in their urinary levels of OhdG, suggesting they were less susceptible to DNA damage. Green tea consumption has previously been associated with decreased risk of cancers, including breast, colon and lung.6
This is merely a sampling of the many studies that support the value of fruits and vegetables in preventing cancer. Eating a well balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables is important. Drinking a lot of fruit juice, however, is not the same thing. We usually discard many of the valuable constituents of the fruit when we make a juice, such as the pulp and fiber, and end up with a drink high in sugar and fructose, and low in nutrients. Rather than drinking sweetened fruit juices, concentrated fruit extracts, in powder, tablet or capsule form, may be a preferable alternative. In a concentrate, you get the good stuff without the simple carbohydrates and sugars.
In the case of pomegranate juice, for example, there are several good concentrates available. At Willner Chemists, we carry pomegranate concentrates, in capsule form, from Solaray, Nature’s Herbs and Natures Way. Nature’s Way is now on sale, by the way, at 30% off list price.
The other option is to take a supplement that incorporates a blend of antioxidant-rich extracts. An example would be the product "Resveratrol Synergy" from Jarrow