Pomegranate Juice Keeps Arteries Healthy
Drinking a small amount of pomegranate juice every day can reverse hardening (atherosclerosis) of the carotid arteries that carry blood from the neck to the brain, reports a study in Clinical Nutrition (2004;23:423–33). The results of this study suggest that drinking pomegranate juice regularly could help prevent some carotid atherosclerosis manifestations, such as stroke and certain types of dementia.
Pomegranate juice contains an array of powerful antioxidants including phenolic compounds, tannins, and anthocyanins. Oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL, the molecules that carry the “bad” cholesterol) is an important step in atherosclerosis development, and antioxidants that are capable of blocking LDL oxidation might be useful for preventing the disease.
Nineteen people with severe atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries participated in the study. Ten were assigned at random to consume 50 ml (just under 2 ounces) of pomegranate juice each day, while the other nine did not receive the juice (control group). Participants did not make changes in diet or lifestyle, and those with drug prescriptions for high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels continued to take their medications during the study. Atherosclerosis severity was determined at the start of the study and again after one year by means of an ultrasound examination that measured the thickness of the two inner layers of the arteries.
After one year, the severity of atherosclerosis had decreased by an average of 35% in the group drinking pomegranate juice; in contrast, the severity increased by an average of 9% in the control group. In addition, the average systolic blood pressure (the higher number) fell substantially, from an average of 174 mm Hg at the beginning of the study to 153 mm Hg after one year. The diastolic blood pressure (the lower number), which was initially normal, did not change during the study. Pomegranate juice consumption makes LDLs significantly less susceptible to oxidization; that effect plus the reduction in systolic blood pressure may explain in part the improvement in atherosclerosis.
Five people continued drinking pomegranate juice for an additional two years. Although the improvements in atherosclerosis and blood pressure were maintained during that time, no additional improvements were seen.
The pomegranate has been considered a sacred fruit by many of the world’s major religions. In Greek mythology, this fruit represented life, regeneration, and marriage. It has also been revered through the ages for its medicinal properties, and it is displayed in the coat of arms of several medical associations. Now, modern science has shown that this ancient fruit is beneficial for atherosclerosis, a very modern disease.
Alan R. Gaby, MD, an expert in nutritional therapies, testified to the White House Commission on CAM upon request in December 2001. Dr. Gaby served as a member of the Ad-Hoc Advisory Panel of the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine. He is the author of Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis (Prima, 1994), and co-author of The Natural Pharmacy, 2nd Edition (Healthnotes, Three Rivers Press, 1999), the A–Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions (Healthnotes, Three Rivers Press, 1999), Clinical Essentials Volume 1 and 2 (Healthnotes, 2000), and The Patient’s Book of Natural Healing (Prima, 1999). A former professor at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, in Kenmore, WA, where he served as the Endowed Professor of Nutrition, Dr. Gaby is the Chief Medical Editor for Healthnotes, Inc.
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