Johns Hopkins Health Alert
The Promise of Pomegranates
They’re delicious and full of heart-healthy antioxidants -- should you add pomegranates to your diet?
The pomegranate, a rosy-red fruit containing glistening red seeds surrounded by pulp, is harvested in the autumn and is now starting to appear in produce sections. An ancient fruit native to the Middle East, the pomegranate has long been valued for its supposed medicinal properties.
Recently, scientists have begun gathering evidence to support some of these claims. Laboratory studies suggest that powerful antioxidants called polyphenols in pomegranate juice can reduce the progression of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries by inhibiting the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. The pomegranate juice also appears to stimulate the production of nitric oxide, a chemical that helps blood vessels relax.
If you are considering adding pomegranate juice or the fruit itself to your diet (remember, only the small juice sacs holding the fruit’s seeds are edible), there are a few things to keep in mind. Thus far, most data supporting the pomegranate’s potential health benefits come from laboratory studies and cannot be readily extrapolated to humans. In addition, several large clinical trials failed to show that antioxidants can prevent heart attacks or other major cardiovascular events -- so recent findings need to be kept in perspective.
Another factor to bear in mind is the added calories. Some experts estimate that you would have to drink about 16 oz., or 2 large glasses, of pomegranate juice daily to obtain significant cardiovascular benefits – that’s about 280 calories. Also, consider cost. A 16-oz. bottle of pomegranate juice costs at least $3.30. Finally, another study found that pomegranate juice inhibits an enzyme that may alter the metabolism of certain drugs, but more research is needed to determine the implications of these findings for humans. Still, pomegranates are a good source of potassium and vitamin C, and you may want to consider incorporating either the fruit or the juice into your 2 to 4 daily servings of fruit.
Posted in Nutrition and Weight Control on September 6, 2006
Reviewed June 2011
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