Pomegranate's Potent Antioxidants For Overall Health

  • Ella Brown Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science, The University of Sheffield

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Brief overview of pomegranate

Pomegranates are a fruit native to Iran. Pomegranates are grown all across Asia, Africa and Europe and can grow on large trees or shrubs. The fruit has a leathered texture skin, with the inside being white and spongy with seeds.1 Pomegranates have several health benefits, they can help reduce disease risk factors linked to

Introduction to antioxidants and their importance for health

The health benefits of pomegranates can be linked to the antioxidant components of the fruit. The juice and peel of the fruit are potent in polyphenols.Polyphenols are nutrients that naturally occur in plants and help the body manage oxidative stress.

Antioxidants are important for your health because they fight unstable molecules in your body known as free radicals.3 A build-up of free radicals is harmful to your cells.3 This harm is known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to various health conditions, including: 

Antioxidants prevent the build-up of free radicals and, therefore, can be linked to reducing the risks of the above conditions. Pomegranates are a good source of antioxidants, consequently having the health benefit of reducing the risks associated with oxidative stress.

Read on

Continue reading to learn how pomegranate's potent antioxidants can benefit your overall health and how to incorporate them into your diet.

Nutritional composition of pomegranate

Overview of pomegranate's key nutrients

Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. An 80g serving is classed as one of your five a day. It provides:4

  • 10 mg of vitamin C 
  • 192g of potassium 
  • 3.6g of fibre 
  • 9.4g of carbohydrates 
  • 0.2 g of fat 
  • 1 g protein 
  • 41 Kcal 

The juice and peel of pomegranates are rich in potent antioxidants, and polyphenols. The largest class of polyphenols in pomegranate are flavonoids and tannins.2 The antioxidants in pomegranates mean they are very good for your overall health. The potential antioxidant activity of pomegranate juice is higher than in green tea and red wine, which are liquids well-known for their antioxidant potential. 

Antioxidant properties and health benefits

Explanation of antioxidant role in combating oxidative stress

Our body generates free radical reactive oxygen species.5 They can be produced from the metabolism reactions that occur in our cells and from external sources like pollution, cigarette smoke and radiation. Free radicals have both harmful and beneficial impacts on the body.

Free radicals become harmful when an overload cannot be gradually destroyed, leading to an accumulation of free radicals in the body. The accumulation of free radicals in your body causes oxidative stress, which can damage the structure of your cells. Therefore, oxidative stress plays a role in many health conditions.

Antioxidants can combat oxidative stress, maintaining your health. The human body can produce natural antioxidants, and we can source them in our diet. Antioxidants act as free radical scavengers. Preventing and repairing the damage of free radicals antioxidants lowers the risk of diseases linked to oxidative stress. 

Impact on overall health

Cardiovascular health

Pomegranate is linked to improving cardiovascular health. Scientists link this to preventing damage to bad cholesterol known as Low-density-lipoprotein (LDL). Damage to LDL causes plaque to accumulate in your arteries; this refers to a build-up of fatty deposits in your heart affecting blood flow. So, reducing LDL damage is good for your heart health.6

 A scientific study carried out on rats has even shown that pomegranate juice reduced plaque-forming LDL levels by 39% and increased good cholesterol known as high-density-lipoprotein) by 27 %. HDL absorbs cholesterol, bringing it to the liver, to be flushed out of your body.

Pomegranate juice is also shown to lower systolic blood pressure (the top number on a blood pressure reading). This reading indicates the pressure your blood exerts against the artery walls of your heart when it contracts. 

Anti-inflammatory effects

Pomegranates also provide anti-inflammatory effects. As described, they are rich in polyphenols, a class of anti-oxidants. Ellagitannins are bioactive polyphenols found in the seed and peel of pomegranates and exert anti-inflammatory effects on cells.7

Inflammation is part of the healing process for an infection or injury. However, inflammation can become chronic and contribute to further health issues if inflammation does not resolve itself. Chronic inflammation can be linked to autoimmune diseases, cancer, cardiovascular issues, gastrointestinal diseases and neurodegenerative diseases.

Studies on rodents have even shown pomegranate juice to be an effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease.12 A systemic review of human studies has shown pomegranate positively manages inflammation complications in rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease where inflammation causes stiffness and swelling in the joints.

Potential cancer prevention/treatment 

Several naturally occurring agents in our food have been linked to cancer prevention. This includes the potent antioxidants of pomegranates. In general, anti-oxidants are linked to preventing cancer by reducing oxidative stress, thus preventing cell and DNA damage that promotes cancer.8 

Prostate cancer is the second most deadly cancer in males behind the lung.1 Cancer can be described as the uncontrolled and over-proliferation of cells. Polyphenols of fermented pomegranate juice have been shown to inhibit cell growth and induce cell programmed death (apoptosis). Fermented pomegranate extract has also been shown to have an anti-proliferative effect on human breast cancer cells. Moreover, pomegranate fruit extract has been shown to inhibit cancerous signalling pathways in lung cancer.

While these studies do not show that pomegranate can cure cancer, it can have a positive impact on prevention and progression. Suppose you are undergoing medical cancer treatment treatment for cancer. In that case, you should contact your doctor before drinking pomegranate juice or supplements to check for any potential medication interactions it could have. 

There are several ways to incorporate a pomegranate into your diet: 

  • Eating pomegranate seeds
  • Drinking juice directly from the fruit
  • Drinking pre-bottled juice

Fresh pomegranate consumption will provide more benefits than bottled juice and is a good option for people avoiding sugar. Bottled pomegranate juice is, however, still a healthy drink option. Some options are 100% juice and have no added sugar. 

How to cut a pomegranate 

Here is a simple guide to preparing your pomegranate: 

  1. Cut the top of the fruit off using a sharp knife 
  2. Score the sides of the fruit along the ridges
  3. Peel the fruit open into segments 
  4. Fill a bowl with water and submerge the segments, this will separate the seeds from the skin/ membrane, or you can just spoon them out

Inclusion in recipes and dishes

Here are some ways you can include pomegranates in your recipes and dishes: 

  • Sprinkle seeds on your salad, porridge or yoghurt
  • Incorporate into poultry dishes (turkey /chicken). Pomegranate is complementary to poultry
  • Add to smoothies and juices

Considerations and precautions

Allergies 

Pomegranate allergies are rare but can be very serious. An allergic reaction to pomegranate may cause:

  • Itching
  • Swelling 
  • Hives
  • Stomach pain
  • Mouth irritation and sores 

Interaction with medications

Pomegranate juice can interact with various types of drugs. Therefore, let your doctor know if you drink pomegranate juice and ask your healthcare provider before taking any medicinal forms of pomegranate. Research suggests that pomegranate juice will interact with the following drugs and, therefore, could cause adverse effects:8

  • ACE inhibitors: drugs used to treat high blood pressure, heart failure, and kidney failure. These are also used for the prevention of diabetes
  • Medication that lowers blood pressure
  • Warfarin: Blood thinner that prevents blood clots 
  • Statins: Medication used to lower cholesterol 

Moderation in consumption

80g of pomegranate is considered one of your five a day.4 A safe amount of pomegranate juice to drink per day is between 8-12 ounces.8

Summary 

Antioxidants are good for your overall health as they prevent damage to your cells and DNA by reducing oxidative stress. Because of this, they are very good for your health and should be a part of your diet. They can be sourced naturally in fruit and vegetables, with pomegranate seeds and juice being a potent provider. Scientific research has shown the potential of pomegranate antioxidant activity to be good for preventing cancers, inflammatory issues, and cardiovascular diseases.

Pomegranates are easy to add to your diet. The seeds make a good topping for meals such as salads and porridge. Fresh pomegranate is more beneficial, but commercially bought products still benefit, with the 100% juice-no-added sugar version being the best option. Pomegranate will not cure the disease, but it is a very healthy fruit and a good source of antioxidants, which are important for your overall health. 

References

  1. Zarfeshany A, Asgary S, Javanmard SH. Potent health effects of pomegranate. Adv Biomed Res [Internet]. 2014 Mar 25 [cited 2024 Jan 14];3:100. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4007340/
  2. Lobo V, Patil A, Phatak A, Chandra N. Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacogn Rev [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2024 Jan 14];4(8):118–26. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/
  3. Pizzino G, Irrera N, Cucinotta M, Pallio G, Mannino F, Arcoraci V, et al. Oxidative stress: harms and benefits for human health. Oxid Med Cell Longev [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2024 Jan 14];2017:8416763. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551541/
  4. Pham-Huy LA, He H, Pham-Huy C. Free radicals, antioxidants in disease and health. Int J Biomed Sci [Internet]. 2008 Jun [cited 2024 Jan 14];4(2):89–96. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614697/
  5. Danesi F, Ferguson L. Could pomegranate juice help in the control of inflammatory diseases? Nutrients [Internet]. 2017 Aug 30 [cited 2024 May 27];9(9):958. Available from: http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/9/958
  6. Malek Mahdavi A, Seyedsadjadi N, Javadivala Z. Potential effects of pomegranate (punica granatum) on rheumatoid arthritis: A systematic review. Int J Clin Pract [Internet]. 2021 Aug [cited 2024 May 27];75(8). Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijcp.13999
  7. Sharma P, McClees SF, Afaq F. Pomegranate for prevention and treatment of cancer: an update. Molecules [Internet]. 2017 Jan 24 [cited 2024 Jan 17];22(1):177. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5560105/
  8. Rettig MB, Heber D, An J, Seeram NP, Rao JY, Liu H, et al. Pomegranate extract inhibits androgen-independent prostate cancer growth through a nuclear factor-κB-dependent mechanism. Mol Cancer Ther [Internet]. 2008 Sep [cited 2024 Jan 17];7(9):2662–71. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2858627/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ella Brown

Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science, The University of Sheffield

Biomedical Science Graduate with extensive knowledge of human health and disease. Experienced in explaining complex scientific concepts to the lay audience in clear and engaging ways.

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