Life Extension Magazine

Life Extension Magazine November 2009

Report

Pomegranate

Favorably Modulates Gene Expression

By Julius Goepp, MD

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Given some of pomegranate’s effects on hormone-dependent prostate cancers, it’s not surprising that it would also show promise in preventing (and even treating) breast cancers, which are often reliant on the female hormone estrogen.40 Korean researchers discovered a powerful blocking action of estrogen synthesis by whole pomegranate seed oil and juice concentrates.41 The result was dramatic growth inhibition of estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells (but not of healthy breast tissue). The same study showed inhibition of tumor formation in rodent cells exposed to known breast carcinogens. Using different methods, another research group found a 42% reduction in tumor formation with whole pomegranate juice polyphenols, and an astonishing 87% reduction with pomegranate seed oil.42 A joint Japanese-Israeli partnership showed how powerfully pomegranate extracts slash production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a compound tumors use to promote new blood vessel growth.43

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is one of the major causes of cancer-related death in the Western world.44 Like prostate cancer, this malignancy can often be treated when caught early, but the effects of chemotherapy are toxic and lose their benefit as the disease becomes advanced. Far better, then, to prevent it in its earliest stages—another natural application for pomegranate juice and extracts! Pomegranate seed oil (rich in healthful linolenic acid) has been shown to suppress experimentally-induced colon cancer in laboratory rats.45

Inflammation is a powerful trigger for colon cancers, which develop in the toxin-rich environment of the large intestine. Pomegranate juice and several of its concentrated extracts (ellagitannins and punicalagin) directly suppress inflammatory cell signaling in colon cancer cells, via several mechanisms involving modulation of gene expression.46 Ellagic acid, produced in the colon from ellagitannins in pomegranate juice, induces apoptosis in colon cancer cells but not in normal colon cells—another example of the remarkable natural “targeting” system of these supplements.47

Pomegranate juice also powerfully inhibits several of the cytochrome P450 enzymes that can activate carcinogens, dramatically lowering the risk that a cancer could even develop.48 Not only that, but ellagic acid from pomegranate juice also increased the expression of powerful detoxifying enzymes, tipping the balance even further away from carcinogenesis.49

Pomegranate’s exciting anticancer potential is now being explored with remarkable effects on lung50,51 and skin cancers.24,52-57 According to noted cancer expert Dr. Imtiaz Siddiqui, “The prevailing mantra of cancer chemoprevention has been: ‘Find effective agents with acceptable or no toxicity and use them in preventing cancer in relatively healthy people or individuals at high risk for developing cancer.’”58 Pomegranate and its extracts fit that bill perfectly.

Diabetes

Mainstream medicine has stood by virtually powerless as people eat themselves to death, creating the global epidemic of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.59 Pomegranate juice and extracts offer powerful prevention at multiple levels on both diabetic and pre-diabetic states.60

For example, pomegranate extracts lower blood sugar in diabetic rats by as much as 50% just 12 hours after a first dose.61,62 In part this effect results from blocking an important glucose-metabolizing digestive enzyme called alpha-glucosidase.63

Diabetics suffer terribly from lipid disturbances and cardiovascular disease. Human studies show that concentrated pomegranate juice improved lipid profiles in diabetics with elevated blood lipids.23,64 And pomegranate flower extract activates the lipid-lowering receptor protein PPAR-alpha;65 this effect also improved cardiac metabolism in diabetic rats.22,66 Mainstream physicians can also activate PPAR-alpha with drugs in the fibrate category—but these expensive, single-mechanism drugs have their share of side effects not seen with pomegranate. Over time, diabetic hearts develop fibrosis, a reduction in flexibility and contractility of the heart muscle. Pomegranate flower extracts modulate expression of the genes that trigger fibrosis in diabetic rats, reducing the amount of harmful fibrosis-related proteins.67 The extracts also activate genes in the liver that help diabetics cope with abnormal fat accumulation in the liver.68

Diabetics also suffer more than others from deadly effects of oxidative damage, which contributes to atherosclerosis and its disastrous consequences.69 When diabetics in Israel supplemented with pomegranate juice (just 50 mL or less than 2 oz per day for 3 months), serum markers of tissue oxidation plunged as much as 56%. In diabetics not taking pomegranate, tissue oxidation markers increased by 350%!70 This and other studies also showed marked improvements in the way pomegranate-supplemented diabetics’ bodies handled dangerous oxidized LDL.18,19,71

Diabetics and people with metabolic syndrome often suffer from poor vascular health. Pomegranate juice and extracts decreased markers of vascular inflammation, contributing to improved arterial function.72 Pomegranate seed oil consumption in high fat-fed laboratory rats reduced weight gain.73 It also reduced blood levels of the dangerous inflammatory fat-based cytokine leptin, while increasing beneficial adiponectin. Supplementation in these “metabolic syndrome” animals also increased their insulin sensitivity, lowering their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.73

Oral Health

Gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis) is unpleasant, unsightly—and potentially deadly. Inflamed gums release inflammatory cytokines and dangerous bacteria into the main circulation, radically increasing risk of cardiovascular disease and other complications.74 An oral pomegranate gel was more effective at inhibiting bacterial adherence (plaque formation) than the antimicrobial drug miconazole, and was effective at preventing growth of multiple oral bacteria.75 Innovative Thai researchers implanted biodegradable pomegranate-saturated chips into the gum “pockets” of people with periodontitis, finding dramatic improvement in clinical signs of periodontal disease.76,77 Treated subjects also had lower concentrations of inflammatory cytokines, helping to lower their risk of systemic illness.

A pomegranate mouth rinse slashed dangerous bacterial counts in oral plaque by 84%—compared to a 79% reduction with the standard medical treatment chlorhexidine rinse.78 A similar pomegranate rinse reduced plaque-inducing protein in saliva, cut indicators of cell injury, and lowered levels of sugar-degrading enzymes.79 The rinse simultaneously increased radical scavenging capacity and antioxidant enzymes in saliva.

Summary

Pomegranate, often called the “Jewel of Winter,” is turning out to be a crown jewel in our battles against aging. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects block the development of atherosclerosis and its cardiovascular consequences. It prevents cancer at multiple, complementary sites in the cascade of tumor-producing events. Pomegranate’s gene expression-modifying powers activate natural mechanisms that protect against diabetes and its devastating effects—as effectively as and more safely than prescription drugs. And pomegranate boosts oral health in ways that promote longevity along with overall health and well-being. If you aren’t using concentrated pomegranate products as part of your health-promotion regimen, you are missing some of nature’s most generous gifts!

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.

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