Pomegranate Juice Cuts Cardiovascular Risks
A large glass of pomegranate
juice a day may help keep the heart doctor away.
Italian and American scientists report that pomegranate juice
helped keep fatty deposits from collecting on artery walls in
mice, and kept human heart cells healthier.
"Mice that drank pomegranate juice were able to significantly
reduce the progression of atherosclerosis, [by] at least 30 percent," said
study co-author Dr. Claudio Napoli, a professor of medicine and
clinical pathology at the University of Naples School of Medicine
The findings appear in this week's issue of the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences.
Pomegranates, a native Middle Eastern fruit, are finding their
way into more and more homes in the United States. The fruit
contains crunchy seeds surrounded by juicy pulp and is a good
source of potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants, according to
the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
"Pomegranates are fun to eat, but messy," noted Samantha Heller,
a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical
Center. For that reason, she said, "juice may be a better option."
Napoli and his colleagues tested the effects of pomegranate
juice in mice that were bred to have high cholesterol and on
human heart cells in culture.
Previous studies, according to Napoli, have suggested the antioxidants
found in pomegranate juice might reduce plaque buildup on artery
walls and reduce oxidative stress on endothelial cells, the cells
that line blood vessels. These cells produce nitric oxide, a
substance that helps the blood vessels relax.
The researchers found that heart cells treated with pomegranate
juice had a 50 percent increase in nitric oxide production, and
that mice given pomegranate juice reduced the rate of plaque
buildup by about 30 percent.
"The protective effects of pomegranate juice were higher than
previously assumed," Napoli noted.
The researchers don't know the exact reason why pomegranate
juice appears to protect artery walls from fatty deposits, but
they suspect that the increased nitric oxide production may play
a role, and that polyphenols -- powerful antioxidants contained
in pomegranates and other foods -- may directly protect the arteries
by reducing oxidative stress.
Other fruits and juices that contain polyphenols include blueberries,
cranberries, oranges and grapes. Red wine also contains polyphenols,
Heller pointed out that while pomegranates are very healthy
and high in antioxidants, they can be expensive and aren't always
easy to find. Plus, she said, "all fruits and vegetables are
just packed with healthy phytochemicals." Examples she cited
as being high in antioxidants include berries, beans, apples,
pecans and artichokes, just to name a few.
Heller also noted that the study was done primarily on mice
and that data from mice don't always extrapolate to humans. But,
she added, "the phytochemicals in pomegranates, which are also
present in other fruits and vegetables, are really very good
for us, and do help prevent certain chronic diseases like heart
disease and cancer."
Napoli said that while it is hard to extrapolate data from mice
to humans, an equivalent amount of pomegranate juice for humans
would be the equivalent of about 16 ounces daily.
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