Pomegranate Juice: The Lesser Known Antioxidant

By Viola Li

 

The use of pomegranate juice (Punica granatum) as an effective, all natural method of healing was introduced to civilizations as early as 3000 B.C. It was hailed as a symbol of immortality and fertility in Iranian culture. In China, the pomegranate represented longevity, and in Babylonian mythology, it was thought to be a mediator of resurrection. Now studies show that these ancient notions might have been close to the medicinal uses that the pomegranate can provide because of its astounding antioxidant properties (Lovgren, 2005).

            Pomegranates are widely acknowledged for their antioxidant properties, which are higher than most other fruit-related food items that were originally thought to contain the highest amounts of antioxidants (Yang, Li, Wei, Xu, & Cheng, 2006). Among them are blueberry, cranberry, red wine, and even green tea, recommended by doctors and health practitioners to nearly all of their patients. Why are these substances so sought after? The reason for this is the role antioxidants play in your body, both those found within your body, and those from other substances (the most common antioxidants are vitamins C and E). They are known for their neutralizing powers of free radicals, also known as oxidants, hence the name ‘anti’-oxidants for the substances that neutralize them, and CuSO4 induced lipoproteins (also known as LDLs), which are ‘bad’ proteins within your body (Nigris et al., 2005). The antioxidants are able to scavenge the body and neutralize these harmful radicals that may set off a chain effect, leading to the creation of more and more radicals. However, because they neutralize the radicals, the antioxidants themselves become oxidized. This requires constant replenishing of these substances, because without them, the radicals and LDL can cause a build up, resulting in pre-mature aging, disease, and even a higher risk in cancer and diabetes.

Pomegranates in particular contain many soluble polyphenols, punicalagin, anthocyanins, and tannins, all different types of antioxidants that contain properties such as being water soluble, containing a phenolic acid group attached to the benzene rings found in polyphenols, and even being a major pigment in plants. These antioxidants have been proven to have anti-atherosclerotic properties in studies conducted by Sumner, et al. (2005). This means that this incredible fruit may be used by patients who wish for a safe, all natural alternative to pills and drugs available by prescription today. This was just the start of the healing properties the juice could provide.

Atherosclerosis, or a disease that causes the hardening of the arteries and may lead to diabetes and arteriosclerosis, has been proven to retard due to the antioxidants that the pomegranate juice provides (Rosenblat, Hayek, & Aviram, 2005). Laboratories such as the California Pacific Medical Center, Preventive Medicine Research Institute, and the Lipid Research Laboratory have begun to conduct further studies on the benefits of this juice on the disease. By testing the effects of pomegranate juice on samples of human blood vessel cells that were exposed to excessive physical stress (like they would be when under high blood pressure), Fuhram, Volkova, and Aviram (2005) proved that the cells that were treated with pomegranate juice had less evidence of damage from the stress. Because atherosclerosis develops due to the deposition of plaques containing cholesterol and lipids on the innermost layer of the walls of large and medium-sized arteries, the fact that the pomegranate is able to reduce the formation of these fatty deposits on the artery walls is a major breakthrough in medical nutrition (Rosenblat, Hayek, & Aviram, 2005).

In another recently conducted study by Fuhram, Volkova, and Aviram (2005), the pomegranate juice was tested for its possible effects on diabetes. This disease is associated with oxidative stress on the macrophages, white blood cells that “clean house” by removing dead cells and other harmful substances, and serum, the liquid portion of the cells left after cells and clotting proteins have been removed. While pomegranate juice consumption on did not affect the sugar level of the macrophages, cholesterol, or triglyceride levels, it did result in a significant reduction in the serum lipid peroxide as well as cellular peroxides. The juice did not worsen the condition of the diabetic patients tested, but, on the contrary, improved the oxidative effects on the serum and macrophages, the key symptom of atherosclerosis and diabetic development (Howell, Aviram, & Rozenberg, n.d.). 

Another study even suggests that pomegranate juice may go beyond diseases and may even help decrease the birth rate of babies born with brain injuries resulting from low blood oxygen reaching the new infant’s brain. Hypoxia ischemia, the result of the decreased blood and oxygen levels, may lead to premature births, and “causes brain injury in approximately two of every 1,000 full-term human births and in a very high percentage of babies born before 34 weeks of gestation.” (Purdy, 2005, para. 2) A study was first conducted in vivo on laboratory mice by lowering the oxygen and blood flow to the mice infant’s brain, and letting some of the mothers drink pomegranate juice repeatedly, while others drank sugar water and other fluids. The result was that 60% of the brain tissue lost was recovered by those mothers that drank pomegranate juice. If this study proves transferable to humans, hypoxia ischemia, a disease recently thought to be very difficult to treat, may be a step closer to being completely cured. 

The benefits of these studies are gradually becoming widely known. Not only does this provide a possible cure for diabetic patients, patients with high blood pressure, patients with atherosclerosis, and even infants with brain damage, but the “food of the dead,” told about in the myth of Persephone and Hades, may provide a very inexpensive, safe, and 100% all natural way of healing. Those like my father, a diabetic, taking nearly five pills everyday in the morning and night, may benefit greatly from further research. It may even improve his condition and lessen the possibility of family inheritance.

 

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References

Fuhrman, B., Volkova, N., & Aviram, M. (2005, September). Pomegranate juice inhidibts oxidized LDL uptake and cholesterol biosynthesis in macrophages. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 16(9), 570-576. Retrieved December 7, 2005, from Science Direct database: http://www.sciencedirect.com/

Howell, A., Aviram, M., & Rozenberg, O. (n.d.). Pomegranate juice sugar fraction reduces macrophage oxidative state, whereas white grape juice sugar fraction increases it . Atherosclerosis. Retrieved December 21, 2005, from Science Direct database: http://www.sciencedirect.com/

Lovgran, S. (2005, March 22). Pomegranate juice fights heart disease, study says. National Geographic, health. Retrieved December 20, 2005, from d database.

Nigris, F., Williams-Ignarro, S., Lerman, L., Crimi, E., Botti, C., & Mansueto, G. (2005, March 29). Beneficial effects of pomegranate juice on oxidation-sensitive genes and endothelial nitric oxide synthase activity at sites of perturbed shear stress . Pharmacology, 102(13), 4896-4901 . Retrieved December 21, 2005, from Science Direct database: http://sciencedirect.com/

Pomegranates. (n.d.). Retrieved December 21, 2005, from Whole Health MD Web site: http://www.wholehealthmd.com/

Rosenblat, M., Hayek, T., & Aviram, M. (2005, October 13). Anti-oxidative effects of pomegranate juice (PJ) consumption by diabetic patients on serum and on macrophages. Atherosclerosis. Retrieved December 7, 2005, from Science Direct database: http://www.sciencedirect.com/

Sumner, M. D., Elliot-Eller, M., Weidner, G., Daubenmier, J. J., Chew, M. H., Marlin, R., et al. (2005, September 15). Effects of pomegranate juice consumption on myocardial perfusion in patients with coronary heart disease. The American Journal of Cardiology, 96(6), 810-814. Retrieved December 7, 2005, from Science Direct database: http://www.sciencedirect.com/

Yang, J., Li, Y., Wei, J., Xu, J., & Cheng, S. (2006, May). Evaluation of antioxidant properties of pomegranate peel extract in comparison with pomegranate pulp extract . Food Chemistry, 96(2), 254-260. Retrieved December 19, 2005, from Science Direct database: http://www.sciencedirect.com/