Only a decade or so ago, pomegranate juice was practically unknown in the US. However, in a relatively short time, it’s been the subject of a ton of research and the results have been so impressive that even mainstream medicine is paying attention. It’s listed within the integrative medicine section of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website (1), complete with research references showing that it suppresses inflammation, inhibits tumor growth and breast cancer cell proliferation, and benefits patients with everything from carotid artery stenosis to those with moderate erectile dysfunction.
We’re not kidding about that last benefit. Research published in the Journal of Urology (2) actually examined the effect of long-term intake of pomegranate juice on erectile dysfunction (ED). They established that free radicals —rogue molecules that do terrific damage to just about everything in your body from your DNA on down— have a profound effect on ED. Pomegranate juice actually helps modulate this effect, because it’s been found to contain powerful antioxidants that actually fight free radicals and the damage they do. For this reason, pomegranate juice is sometimes called a “natural Viagra” (3).
Controversy exists about whether pomegranate extract in pill form “works” as well as the juice. The bulk of the research has been on the juice itself, but one study found that the juice and the extracts produced similar results (4).
The excellent website GreenMedInfo assembled 158 scientific abstracts of studies related to pomegranate (5), including (but not limited to) studies that investigated the effect of pomegranate on oxidative stress, inflammation, atherosclerosis, prostate cancer and hypertension. For the most part, the studies are uniformly positive. Pomegranate fruit extract contains a ton of polyphenols, which are plant chemicals that have notable health benefits, including the ability to help protect cells from damage and the ability to lower inflammation.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center website, pomegranates have been used as medicine for thousands of years (6). In Asia and in the Middle East, they use the bark, root, fruit and rind of the tree as medicine, but in the west, most of the research has been done on the fruit and its juice.
Pomegranate also seems to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage, which is critical since cholesterol is only a problem when it’s oxidized. In one animal study, pomegranate juice slowed the growth of plaque (7). Other research has also shown that it slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells in the lab.(8,9). Preliminary evidence suggests that the juice may help lower blood pressure (10,11), improve cardiovascular risk factors (12, 13) and even enhance immunity. There’s even research suggesting that pomegranate’s ability to fight inflammation just might stall the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease (14), and might have a preventive role in obesity (15). Finally, studies have shown that pomegranate fruit—as well as its juice, extract and oil—exert anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, and anti-tumorigenic properties, leading many researchers to investigate its potential as an agent in the prevention and treatment of skin, breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers. (16)
How much should you drink? There’s no standard recommendation dose, but studies (such as the ones mentioned above) have used anywhere from 2 ounces a day to 8 ounces a day with great results. There is a fair amount of natural sugar in the juice, so keep that in mind if you’re on a low-carb diet, or very sensitive to the effects of sugar. proceed accordingly.
For everybody else, pomegranate juice is a superfood. We recommend consuming it regularly.
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23519910 blood pressure
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3933059/ blood pressure
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11500191 cardio risk
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21457902 cardio risk