Contributing writer for Wake Up World
Pomegranate isn’t exactly the ‘new kid on the block’ where superfoods are concerned — most of us have been well-versed in the exceptional health benefits of this tasty fruit for quite some time. From its heart-healthy attributes to its ability to reduce cancer risk and its stellar antioxidant profile, pomegranate is a winner on many health fronts.
Now researchers have added yet another reason to enjoy the fruit: substantial protection against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Combating Neurodegeneration — Naturally
It’s estimated that worldwide cases of dementia — a collection of illnesses that are extremely concerning due to their destructive nature and the lack of treatment options — will triple by 2050.
Over the last several years, scientists have established that inflammation plays a key role in the development of these debilitating diseases. Now, a new study from the University of Huddersfield in the UK has shown that the compound punicalagin, a potent polyphenol present in pomegranates, significantly inhibits the inflammation of a type of glial cell — known as microglia — which are found throughout the brain.
Chris Weller writes in Medical Daily:
“Dr. Olumayokun Olajide, a University researcher interested in the anti-inflammatory properties of natural products, led the research. He and his team ran tests of punicalagin on the cultured brain cells of rats. They looked at the interplay between the compound and any traces of inflammation found in the microglia. Parkinson’s disease, and to a lesser extent Alzheimer’s, relies on compounding inflammatory damage to destroy cells in a cascade.” [source]
While the compound was effective in reducing the level of inflammation, further research is needed to determine the optimal dosage. For the time being, Olajide believes pomegranate juice could be an exceptionally valuable stand-in.
“We do know that regular intake and regular consumption of pomegranate has a lot of health benefits,” he said, “including prevention of neuro-inflammation related to dementia.”
However, not all pomegranate juice on the market is created equal. It’s important to consume only 100 percent concentrations, which contain approximately 3.4 percent of the beneficial compound.
A subsequent study published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience took the research on pomegranate extract a step further and found that polyphenols themselves were unable to cross the blood-brain barrier, but urolithins could. Urolithins are anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective compounds that are formed when ellagitannins, a type of polyphenol, are metabolized by gut bacteria.
The researchers also established that urolithins reduced Aß fibrillation — a process where amyloid proteins associated with Alzheimer’s form clumps in the brain — in vitro. Additionally, the compounds increased the lifespan of Alzheimer roundworm models. According to the team, further tests are needed to determine if the protective effects of pomegranate metabolites could ultimately help stave off or treat Alzheimer’s in humans.
Loma Linda University Health: Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease with Pomegranates
Drinking a daily glass of pomegranate juice can halve the build-up of harmful proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Pomegranate isn’t only exceptionally protective for the brain, it also has a wide-range of other health benefits, as seen below.
- Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, pomegranate may help protect against colon cancer, according to this study published in the journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
- Pomegranate has anti-tumor properties, preventing tumors from acquiring a blood supply, thereby restricting nutrients and slowing tumor growth.
- The fruit is rich in aromatase inhibitors, a natural substance that inhibits the production of estrogen, which in turn reduces breast cancer risk.
- Pomegranate juice or supplements were shown to slow the increase of PSA in those who had been treated for prostate cancer.
Minimizing Cardiovascular Disease
- Pomegranate juice helps to reduce the formation of atherosclerotic plaque by hindering LDL oxidation. In one study of patients with severe carotid artery blockages, just a single ounce of pomegranate juice daily for a year reduced arterial plaque by 30 percent, whereas those who did not take the juice experienced a nine percent increase of plaque.
- Phytochemical’s in pomegranate have blood pressure-reducing properties.
Calming Metabolic Syndrome
- Diseases like obesity, diabetes and hypertension improved with the ingestion of pomegranate, which researchers discovered in this study.
- Pomegranate has been shown to lower after-meal blood sugar levels, a helpful attribute for those struggling with diabetes or weight issues.
If you would like to reap the outstanding benefits of pomegranate, Dr. Fuhrman provides a few tips for how to enjoy the fruit in 9 Pomegranate Health Benefits that Offer Powerful Disease Protection:
“Removing the edible arils from the pomegranate is easy when you know how to do it. The easiest way is to cut it around the diameter, split it into two and then pound the back with the back of a large serving spoon. The flavor and health benefits of pomegranate make the effort well worth it.
Enjoy fresh pomegranates, especially when they are in season, and store some arils in the freezer to get the health benefits of pomegranate all year round. Pomegranate season typically runs from October through February. When selecting pomegranates, look for a ripe, deep-colored fruit with a red to reddish-brown outer rind that is heavy for its size.”
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