Pomegranate Frenzy

fruitGet set for a pomegranate frenzy. That’s because a couple of studies have suggested the fruit may have a role in treating breast cancer and in lowering the risk of heart disease. By the time the tabloids got through with their interpretation of the results, pomegranate juice had become the new wonder kid on the block. And, needless to say, pomegranate capsules are now featured in health food stores as cancer-preventatives and as treatments for menopause.

What did the researchers really find? That there are compounds in pomegranate juice that have estrogenic activity. In other words, they can alter the way that cells respond to the body’s own estrogen. This is certainly of great interest because more than two thirds of breast cancers are estrogen positive, meaning that the body’s estrogen stimulates the proliferation of tumor cells. Any substance that reduces such estrogenic stimulation is most welcome. And it seems that some of the polyphenols in pomegranate can do just that. They block the activity of an enzyme known as aromatase which is involved in the synthesis of estrogen. How did the scientists determine this? By studying the effect of pomegranate juice on breast cancer cells in the laboratory. They found that extracts of the seeds, which is what pomegranate juice really is, reduced the activity of 17-beta-estradiol, the estrogen of concern in breast cancer, by some 50%. And breast cancer cells which experienced this reduction in estrogen stimulation died with much greater frequency than normal cells. Of course this is a laboratory finding and is a long way away from showing that pomegranate juice has any effect on actual cancers in the body. There is a big difference between bathing cultured cancer cells in pomegranate juice in a Petri dish and drinking the juice. Nobody knows if the active ingredients can be absorbed from the digestive tract and if they have any chance of making it to the site of a tumor. But it seems a pretty good bet that pomegranate juice is not harmful, and may do some good.

Although the benefit for breast cancer may be a little iffy, pomegranate’s role as a heart disease preventative is on firmer footing. Israeli researchers investigated the effect of pomegranate juice on LDL cholesterol, or in common every day language, “bad cholesterol.” They found that the juice reduced the conversion of LDL into its most damaging form, known as oxidized LDL. This finding really may be more than a laboratory curiosity. Why? Because the researchers also found that when mice that were specially bred to develop hardened arteries were given pomegranate juice, the size of the lesions in their arteries was reduced by 44%. Basically then, while the hype about pomegranate juice may not be completely justified, there is something to it. A daily glass of eight ounces just may provide surprising benefits. Just don’t spill any of the juice on your clothes. Pomegranate stains are virtually impossible to get out!

Joe Schwarcz

24 Responses to “Pomegranate Frenzy”

  1. Bernadette Drake says:

    Pomegranate is a wonderful fruit albeit difficult to peel (I watched many on youtube try to convince me of the easiest, and less messy way to prepare) wear old clothing and do it in a deep sink was my take. I put the seeds in my natural yogurt and the diversities of taste is wonderful.

  2. Ruxandra says:

    I love using the fruit in salads and the syrup in some oriental dishes. Now I will use them more often, knowing how good they are for our health!

  3. Ramona says:

    I enjoy eating the pomegranate capsules but the juice is too expensive and eating the seeds intact adds to fiber in my diet. I know some people spit out the seeds after sucking off the juice.

  4. Celini says:

    I love pomegranate juice a lot, but I seldom eat them. I bought the fruit and make the juice at home.

  5. Amanda says:

    Pom juice is delicious! Yum!

  6. Leslie says:

    November through January I eat pomegranates (rather than the juice). Peel and separate the juicy seeds from the membrane in a bowl of water to avoid stains, then drain and keep in 1/2 cup containers. Eat for luch with a spoon. About 70 cents per serving.

  7. RAG Richard Guilford says:

    Among all the iffys connected with pomegranate juice, I am intrigued by the rather non-scientific introduction of a collateral issue involving LDLs, and the “assumption” that we all know and agree with presumptive knowledge making them bad. I have some contrary feelings about the argument in favor of cholesterol control, and am uncomfortable when the subject is thrown about as though settled by science. By the way, if there is science out there that suggests cholesterol control is actually meaningful for persons without heart disease, I’d like to hear about it.

  8. rpaliotti says:

    Good info. Clear representation of the facts.

  9. Jelili Williams says:

    As researchers discovered some health benefits of pomegranate fruit as a source of lowering the risks of heart diseases by reducing LDL and perhaps also reducing the activities of breast cancer, it will be health worthy and beneficial to add pomegranate to daily food consumption.

  10. Mary Sall says:

    The “Pomegranate Frenzy” brings to mind the “Mangosteen Frenzy” several years ago. My thinking is every fruit and vegetable is beneficial to our health.

  11. Mama hima says:

    I love pomegranates and eat them in season adding some orange blossom water on it .it’s worth the try ! I have now more info about this fruit thank you

  12. Mamatha Rao says:

    In India pomegranate juice is very popular. The dried pomegranate seeds are crushed and used in cooking ( for stuffed vegetable paratha/bread, lentil curry, dry potato curry etc.)- for its sour element. The juice is recommended for some stomach disorders.

  13. Iris Tamara says:

    I enjoy Pomegranates, have not had one in a while, so I think it’s time to go pick one up. My grandmother died from Breast cancer, in the mid 80′s. I am grateful for all the studies, and this course, because not only do I have a grandmother who died, but I also have a mom,an aunt,a cousin, her daughter, myself, 3 daughters, and 2 grand-daughters. That’s a whole lot of ladies and girls who benefit from these studies. I love progress.

  14. Myriam Lizet says:

    Hello. The benefits of pomegranate are now more known and more people have access to it. Coincidentally, few days ago, I had a talk with a former student, a Chemistry professor at the university I work for (Mexico), who is leading a research exclusively on pomegranate. We had a one hour talk about the benefits of drinking the juice of this “super” fruit. More people should know about it. Let’s drink it!

  15. David Gabriel says:

    I guess many would simply take the Lab results and accept it as fact. Good to be warned that the process in your body is a different matter to that in a Petri dish. Also I have doubts about commercially produced juice – it has to be processed in some form, and we don’t know everything that goes into it! But it is problematic producing your own pomegranate juice at home. In some cities the fruit is also not readily available. I guess we will have to find something else!!

  16. John S says:

    always surprised at the take-aways people derive from studies, and impressions. Like all commercially-produced (in this case) foods are verboten, as are statins. Millions believe you, alt millions do not.

  17. Christopher Wisniewski says:

    The aromatase inhibition is a very desirable effect and protocol for breast cancer is currently using letrozol to achieve this result. Are there any comparative studies to see if pomegranate juice is less expensive than letrozol ?
    I do like pomegranate and eat them in season. I would eat them for the benefit of the LDL impact. I currently use Niacin but find it hard to get cheaply. Food does seem to have positive effects.

    • Apolo Catala says:

      The question of whether pomegranate juice or the fruit itself is less expensive than letrozol merits analysis. Thank you for bringing that up.

  18. Like Carol I eat pomegranate fruit in season. I never buy the ready-made juice because I do not believe that a commercially produced juice has any health benefits whatsoever.

  19. S.Ralphs-Thibodeau says:

    I would rather drink a glass of pomegranate juice than take Statins.

  20. Sally-May says:

    I’ve been eating “Granny Pomms” (that’s what my 3 year old self named them) since I was 3, but sadly you don’t see them for sale very often in the fruit aisle.

    They are easy to grow though and they fit right in to a suburban garden.

  21. Carol says:

    I adore pomegranates! I eat the fruit in season, and never buy the juice (it’s expensive). I believe I will now. I love the potential benefits. Also, there is a history of breast cancer and other cancers in my family. It’s worth a try!

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