What is pomegranate and it’s health benefits?
Pomegranate is a red and round, apple-looking, nature’s power fruit that originates from India. It currently grows over the whole of the Mediterranean region including south East Asia, the East Indies and tropical Africa. For centuries, pomegranate fruit, seeds and the pomegranate tree have all been used to make a variety of medicine to treat Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart conditions, high blood pressure and others thanks to its antioxidant profile. But does it actually help though? Let’s take a look at the health benefits of pomegranate.
So, let’s dive into the health benefits of pomegranate (evidence based).
The nutritional profile of pomegranate.
Very Low in calories
100g of fresh pomegranate contains 83 calories.
Really Low in Fat
100g of fresh pomegranate contains 1g of fat of which only 0.1g is saturated making this a healthy fruit. The amazing part is that it contains 0g of trans fats! (the unhealthiest type of fat on the market)
Low is carbohydrates
Although 85% of pomegranate are carbohydrates, 100g of pomegranate contains 18g of carbohydrates. In addition to this, the 18g of carbohydrates contains 4g of dietary fibre and 13g of natural sugars.
Quite Low in protein
100g of pomegranate contains only 1g of protein
Low in sodium
100g of pomegranate contains only 3mg of sodium. Sodium regulates water within the body and also supports correct nerve functioning. However, if consumed in high quantities, it can cause high blood pressure.
High in potassium
100g of pomegranate contains 236mg of potassium. This is great because potassium helps our muscles function properly, helps to maintain healthy nerve cells and organs like heart, kidneys and adrenal glands. However, over consumption can lead to hyperkalemia. This is a condition that occurs if your potassium blood levels are high and may lead to symptoms like muscle weakness, tiredness, nausea, and tingling feeling.
Contains high levels of vitamin C
Pomegranate is made up of 17% vitamin C which is great for the formation of collagen. Collagen is a protein used in the structure of connective tissues and bones which helps keep them together. Also, it helps with wound healing and iron absorption. On the other hand, over consumption of vitamin C may lead to diarrhoea and more serious conditions like kidney stones.
Also, contains Calcium
Calcium is required for the formation and maintenance of strength and density of bones and teeth.
Iron enhances oxygen distribution throughout the body. It is also an important component of many enzymes, and helping to keep immune system strong.
Now that’s nutrition out the way. Let’s discuss the health benefits of pomegranate (evidence based):
May reduce arthritis and improve bone health
Pomegranate contains natural compounds which are high in antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects. Therefore, it may help reduce the risk of arthritis and joint pain. In particular, arthritis is caused by inflammation in the joints so, it makes sense a pomegranate can sooth the symptoms.
For instance, one study done in 2005 looked into the effects of pomegranate on joints in people with osteoarthritis. The study reported that pomegranate fruit extract not only blocked the degradation of bones but also nourished them.
May help to fight cancer
There is definitely more research required on this one but so far, the results are promising. Pomegranate contains ellagic acid and a punicalagin compounds which have demonstrated chemo-preventative and chemotherapeutic effects. Let’s take a look at how it interacts with different tumors.
Pomegranate seed oil contains polyphenols which have demonstrated to prevent the growth, formation and reproduction of cancer cells. For instance, there was a study done by Shirode et al which looked into the effects of pomegranate on breast cancer cells. The study reported a reduction of breast cancer cells thanks to the pomegranate polyphenols.
Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) is a blood test that measures the level of normal and malignant proteins within the prostate gland. There was a preclinical study conducted on animals that analysed the effects of pomegranate extract on cancer cells. The study demonstrated that the pomegranate extract suppressed the growth of lung, skin, colon and prostate tumors. A phase two of this study analysed the effects of pomegranate juice on the PSA levels in patients who already had a prostate cancer, and, the study found that the pomegranate juice significantly prolonged the PSA growth.
There is some research that investigated the effects of pomegranate extract on human lung cancer. The pomegranate extract has displayed some useful chemo preventative and chemo-therapeutic effects. For example, Li et al (2016) analysed the effects of pomegranate leaves extract on lung cancer cells. It was found that the leaves extract hindered the growth of small lung cancer cells. It was found that pomegranate leaves extract nt only induced apoptosis (death of the small cancer cells), cell cycle arrest (controlling of cell development) and obstructed cell migration (development of the cells) but also suppressed invasion (movement of the cells). In other words, the pomegranate leaves extract managed to not only prevent but also destroy the survival pathways in A549 lung carcinoma cells and tumor cells.
Inflammation is one of the main causes of colon cancer. As we have discussed earlier, pomegranate seed oil has some great anti-inflammatory properties. Its anti-inflammatory properties come from the metabolite urolithin-A and ellagitannin-related compounds. There was a study conducted by Kohno et al (2004) examined the pomegranate seed oil and its linolenic acids on chemically induced cell changes in rats. Again, the study reported that the pomegranate seed oil managed to limit the changes of those cells.
Pomegranate extract contains some powerful anti-oxidant properties thanks to its high contents of ellagitannins, anthocyanins and Tannins compounds. There were a variety of investigations conducted and all seem to report the same thing; Pomegranate seed oil has not only suppressed growth of various tumor cells, limited the risk of cancer cell formation, but also induced death of those cells.
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May help with memory
Research into cognitive functions are still under examination but the small investigations have shown some promising results. For example, there was a study carried out by Ropacki et al (2013) which analysed the effects of pomegranate supplementation and the memory retention after a heart surgery. The participant’s memory was analysed at week 1 and week 6. The study reported that those who consumed pomegranate supplements have not only retained their memory but their memories also became better. There are also some speculations that a pomegranate could help with Alzheimer disease. We are sure you all know that there is no cure for Alzheimer disease as yet but pomegranate has shown to reduce the risks of it.
For example, there was a study that looked into the link between Alzheimer’s disease and pomegranate juice. It was shown that rats who consumed the pomegranate juice were able to learn how to get out of a maze a lot faster thanks to the reduction of protein accumulation in the brain. This protein accumulation can be responsible for disruption in brain communication.
May have anti-inflammatory properties
Inflammation tends to be one of the most leading causes of some of the serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even obesity. Therefore, by reducing inflammation in your body you are potentially reducing the risk of contracting these diseases. Pomegranate contains high amounts of punicalagins which are highly anti-oxidant. This is the key ingredient that helps pomegranate to fight inflammation. One study conducted by Colombo e al (2013) examined the pomegranate effects on the digestive tract. The study reported that consumption of pomegranate seeds, peels, flowers or juice have shown to significantly reduce the gut inflammation.
Moreover, there was another study conducted by Sohrab et al (2014) which looked into the effects of pomegranate juice concentrations and the inflammation markers in patients with type 2 diabetes. The study demonstrated that after 12 weeks of pomegranate juice consumption, patient’s inflammation markers significantly reduced.
Moving forward with the health benefits of pomegranate (evidence based)
May reduce risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure
Pomegranate may reduce risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure, but the link is still under investigation. NHS believes that the research that has been conducted so far had small samples therefore, needs to be replicated. For example, one study conducted by Asgary et al (2013) on 21 hypertensive patients reported a reduction in hypertension among those patients. Hypertensive is a condition requires lowering blood pressure.
The observed effects of pomegranate on blood pressure could be due to its high content of nitrates. It would be difficult to discuss nitrates without tapping into the science side of things. But, nitrate is a compound that contains oxygen atoms. So when it loses it, it will turn into a signaling molecule called Nitric Oxide. After that, this molecule travels through the arteries and signals for them to relax. When the arteries relax, the blood vessels dilate and the blood pressure reduces (Gunnars, 2017).
Moreover, a different study conducted by the Preventative Medicine Research Institute (2005) examined the effects of pomegranate juice on patients with coronary heart disease. The study demonstrated an improvement in blood flow to the heart. However, this improvement occurred without any changes to blood sugar, weight or blood pressure. Based on the previous study, we would have thought the blood pressure would also improve. Nevertheless, this is why it would be beneficial to run cross examinations or maybe more studies in a more controlled environment.
May improve athletic performance
As mentioned above, the pomegranate contains high levels of nitrates which have the capacity to increase blood flow. Therefore, this should allow our muscles to contract better during exercise.
For example, there was a study conducted by Dept. of Exercise and Sport Science (2014) which investigated into the effects of pomegranate extract on blood flow and exhaustion. It was found that pomegranate extract enhanced blood flow by relaxing the blood vessels and delayed fatigue during exercise. However, more studies are required to ensure accuracy and efficacy of pomegranate.
In conclusion, pomegranate has shown some promising results from research. However, some uses of pomegranate fruit still need a little more investigation but it may be safe to say that so far, the research is looking very positive.
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