Pomegranates have been used for years for their health benefits. Modern science has found that pomegranates can help protect your heart and may even prevent cancer.
Pomegranate is a sweet, tart fruit with thick, red skin. While the skin is not edible, it holds hundreds of juicy seeds that you can eat plain or sprinkle on salads, oatmeal, hummus, and other dishes. Bottled pomegranate juice is also an easy way to enjoy some of the health benefits of this delicious fruit.
Pomegranates are grown on trees. These trees need ample heat to grow and ripen these hard, delicious fruits. Pomegranates are native to the Middle East and some Asian countries, but they can also be produced in the United States. The majority of pomegranates are grown in California. They’re in season from September to November, but their long shelf life means you can usually find them in grocery stores until January.
Pomegranates can have up to three times more antioxidants than green tea or red wine. Antioxidants protect cells from damage, prevent diseases — such as cancer — and reduce inflammation and the effects of aging. Additionally, other health benefits of pomegranates include the following.
Studies have suggested that pomegranates can protect the heart in many ways, including lowering blood pressure and reducing blood sugar levels.
Atherosclerosis — the build-up of cholesterol and fats in the arteries — is a common cause of heart disease. Pomegranate juice may help reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol — “bad” cholesterol” — that clogs arteries. It can also increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol — “good” cholesterol” — which lowers the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Initial studies have revealed that people with type 2 diabetes who began to drink pomegranate juice showed an improvement in insulin resistance. Pomegranates can also help people without diabetes maintain a healthy weight.
Lowering Risk of Cancer
Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, both of which are known to prevent free radicals from damaging your cells. In some studies, pomegranates show potential to be effective in preventing prostate, breast, lung, and colon cancers. Additionally, preclinical studies on animals have shown that eating pomegranate can inhibit the growth of lung, skin, colon, and prostate tumors. More research is needed to understand the effects on humans.
Pomegranate contains several beneficial compounds with powerful anti-cancer properties.
It has been shown to interfere with pathways that promote the development of cancer, while also contributing to mechanisms that inhibit the growth and spread of existing cancer. Studies show that pomegranate holds promise in the fight against cancers of the prostate, breast, colon, liver, lung, and more. Pomegranate has also been shown, in preclinical studies, to boost the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy drugs while protecting against their harmful side effects.
How Pomegranate Fights Cancer
In addition to preventing cancer from developing, in preclinical studies, pomegranate has shown multiple effects that help block the growth of existing cancer cells and prevent them from spreading. These effects include:
Blocking the cell cycle: Pomegranate can shut off a cancer cell’s ability to divide, limiting its growth by affecting multiple genes related to the cell cycle (the cell’s pattern of growth). However, it does not block healthy cells from dividing normally. Inducing cell death: Compounds in pomegranate directly cause cancer cells to die by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death).
Stopping new blood vessels that feed cancer: Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels. Cancer cells require new blood vessels in order to support their growth with an ample blood supply. Pomegranate blocks growth factors related to angiogenesis, which limits the formation of new blood vessels in tumors.
Preventing cancer spread: Cancer cells are often able to separate from other cells and migrate through tissues, eventually spreading to distant organs in the body. Pomegranate limits a cancer cell’s ability to spread by affecting gene expression related to invasion, migration, and metastasis.
Taken together, the various compounds found in pomegranate appear tailor-made for preventing cancer and reducing its spread by attacking these diseased cells at many steps of their development and growth.
Pomegranate and Prostate Cancer
There are promising studies on pomegranate’s anti-cancer actions against prostate cancer, the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in men in the U.S.
One study showed that a prominent polyphenol (called punicalagin) found abundantly in pomegranate blocks the growth of human prostate cancer cells, while also inducing cell death by apoptosis.
In another study, a pomegranate extract initiated prostate cancer cell death by apoptosis. It also limited the ability of these cells to migrate, suggesting it can help prevent the spread of prostate cancer.
Some of the most exciting research on pomegranate demonstrates its ability to slow the increase of PSA, a blood protein that is a marker of the progression of prostate cancer as well as an indicator of response to treatment. One study evaluated the effect of pomegranate juice on PSA levels in men after they had been treated for prostate cancer. All patients had rising levels of PSA prior to intervention, an indication that their cancer was very likely progressing. But following supplementation with pomegranate, the rate of PSA increase was slower. This suggests that pomegranate slowed cancer growth. A subsequent study confirmed the finding that pomegranate extract slowed the rate at which PSA levels increased.
Pomegranate and Breast Cancer
Preclinical studies using pomegranate have demonstrated effects against breast cancer. Research shows that pomegranate can prevent breast cancer cell growth, induce cancer cell death, block inflammation, and reduce the potential for breast cancer cells to spread. Pomegranate may also prevent the initial formation of breast cancer. In one study, researchers administered a cancer-causing toxin to rats to induce breast cancer. They found that supplementation with pomegranate blocked many of the harmful effects of the toxin. This included altering pathways in cells related to inflammation and oxidative stress. An extract of pomegranate was also found to prevent the migration of breast cancer cells and to induce cell death.
Additional Anti-Cancer Effects
In addition to targeting pathways that promote breast and prostate cancer, pomegranate has demonstrated, in preclinical studies, beneficial effects against several other types of cancer.
Studies confirm pomegranate’s anti-cancer activity in cell and animal models of leukemia, as well as in cancer of the bladder, brain, cervix, colon/rectum, liver, lung, ovaries, skin, and thyroid.
Pomegranate is also being explored as an adjuvant to conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy. It has been shown to bolster the effect of such treatments, while also offering protection against some of their deleterious side effects.
For example, a chemotherapy drug called fluorouracil is commonly used in the treatment of various forms of cancer. This drug often causes side effects, such as damaging the lining of the intestines.
A study in rats revealed that combining a pomegranate extract with fluorouracil protected the intestinal lining from fluorouracil-induced injury. The combined treatment also enhanced the cancer-killing effect of the drug, killing more cancer cells than using chemotherapy alone.
Pomegranate contains compounds that attack cancer cells in cultures by several different mechanisms.
Its anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce the risk of developing cancer.
In preclinical and animal models, pomegranate has been shown to reduce existing cancer cell growth, induce cell death, prevent blood vessel growth associated with tumors, and inhibit the spread of cancer cells in the body.
Pomegranate shows promise to help combat some of the most common types of cancer and may potentially boost the effectiveness of existing cancer chemotherapy treatments. More research clearly needs to be done.
Individuals concerned about cancer should consider adding a pomegranate extract (standardized to 30% punicalagins and 22% punicic acid) to their supplement regimen.
Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.