Pomegranate Seeds: A Natural Stimulant
To Encourage Uterine Contractions
The team identified beta-sitosterol a steroid that can inhibit
the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine as the main
constituent of pomegranate seed extract. The research suggests that
pomegranate extract could be used as a natural stimulant to encourage
the uterus to contract during labour.
Pomegranate juice is thought to have a number of health benefits,
from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure to protecting against
some cancers, but until now there has been no evidence to demonstrate
its effects on the uterus. Researchers investigated pomegranate
seed extract more highly concentrated than pomegranate
juice and its effect on uterine smooth muscle samples.
Professor Sue Wray, from the University's Department of Physiology,
said: "Previous study has suggested that the pomegranate's
antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have a positive impact
on health. We wanted to understand its effect on uterine contractions
to help us explore new ways of treating women who may experience
difficult labours. Currently the only available drug to treat
women with a poorly contracting uterus is oxytocin, a hormone
which only works approximately 50% of the time.
"It is important for us to investigate how the uterus works
and what happens when it does not contract normally so that women
experiencing problems during labour do not have to undergo major
surgery to deliver a healthy baby."
Dr Sajeera Kupittayanant, from Suranaree's Institute of Science,
explains: "We found that beta-sitosterol was the main constituent
of pomegranate extract, a steroid present in many plant species,
but particularly rich in pomegranate seed. We added the extract
to uterus tissue samples from animals and found that the muscle
cells increased their activity. Our work suggests that the increase
is due to a rise in calcium, which is necessary in order for any
muscle to contract, but is usually affected by hormones, nerve
impulses and some drug treatments.
"The next step is to investigate how beta-sitosterol in
pomegranate extract could increase calcium, but it could prove
to be a significant step forward in identifying new ways of treating
The research, published in Reproductive Sciences, will support
work being conducted at a new centre dedicated to improving experiences
in pregnancy and childbirth for women across the world. The Centre
for Better Births will bring together researchers and clinicians
to improve understanding in areas such as premature labour, recurrent
miscarriage and prolonged labour.
January 28, 2010