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Life Extension Magazine

LE Magazine May 2007
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Pomegranate


Powerful Protection for Aging Arteries—and Much More
By Tiesha D. Johnson, BSN, RN

Preserving Dental Health

Emerging research suggests that pomegranate holds promise in promoting optimal dental health.

A recent study indicates that pomegranate fights dental plaque, the yellowish buildup of microorganisms on the teeth that can lead to cavities and gum disease. Scientists found that pomegranate extract helped kill microorganisms isolated from the dental plaque of healthy adults. Additionally, rinsing the mouth for one minute with a mouthwash containing pomegranate effectively reduced the amount of microorganisms cultured from dental plaque.33

Thai researchers studying gum disease discovered that pomegranate extracts, when combined with extracts of another traditional herb called gotu kola (Centella asiatica), enhance gum healing following dental scaling and root planing (deep cleaning between the gums and the teeth down to the roots.)34 Such procedures are commonly done to restore the vital connection between the gums and tooth roots, in the absence of which bacterial infection, decay, and tooth loss may occur. By simply implanting tiny chips impregnated with pomegranate and gotu kola extracts into the gap between the gum and tooth root, the scientists were able to reduce the size of the gap and increase gum and tooth attachment.34 A later study by the same group35 showed that treated patients also had less gum bleeding and considerably lower levels of interleukin-1 beta and interleukin-6, two inflammatory cytokines linked to cardiovascular disease.36,37

Maintaining optimal dental health is not only important for preserving the appearance and function of the teeth, but also for protecting against cardiovascular disease. Scientists now know that the chronic inflammation from periodontal disease is closely tied to the worsening of cardiovascular diseases.38,39

Protecting Skin Health

New evidence suggests that pomegranate extracts may protect skin against two important factors that degrade its health and appearance over time: accumulating damage inflicted by ultraviolet light, and a decreased ability to regenerate or heal.

Excessive exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation has numerous adverse health effects on skin, including redness, hyperpigmentation, immune suppression, and photoaging. Research shows that pomegranate extracts protect human skin cells against UVB-induced changes by modulating the biochemical pathways that can provoke cancer and inflammation.28

Pomegranate also protects against ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, or the damaging, long-wave rays that penetrate deeply into the skin to promote wrinkles and both benign and malignant tumors. This is an important finding, as many commercially available sunscreens offer only limited UVA protection. When human skin cells were incubated with pomegranate extracts, they were better able to withstand UVA-induced damage. Scientists believe that pomegranate modulates cellular pathways to confer protection against ultraviolet rays.40

As skin ages, it often becomes thinner and slower to heal. A promising new study demonstrates that pomegranate extracts may help avert age-related changes in the skin.41 Investigators applied various pomegranate constituents to skin cells derived from the epidermis (outermost layer) and dermis (layer underneath the epidermis). Pomegranate seed oil extract promoted regeneration and thickening of the skin’s epidermis, while an extract of the peel promoted repair of the dermis. Pomegranate extracts may thus help promote healing and regeneration of skin tissues.41

Ensuring Liver Health

As one of the body’s most metabolically active organs, the liver is responsible for breaking down and rendering harmless a multitude of chemicals, toxins, drugs, and hormones. Performing this daily task requires a prodigious amount of antioxidants, and new findings suggest that pomegranate is a rich source of liver-protective antioxidants.

In the laboratory, pomegranate extract effectively quenched a variety of dangerous reactive oxygen species, including superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radicals. When mice were given pomegranate before exposure to an oxidative stressor that normally causes liver toxicity, they were significantly protected and maintained high levels of crucial liver antioxidants. Pomegranate extract helped protect the animals against pathological changes that accompany liver damage, such as degeneration, fatty changes, and necrosis (tissue death).42 Pomegranate extract thus confers everyday benefits for liver health.

Conclusion

Pomegranate is one of nature’s richest sources of antioxidants. Accumulating research offers ample evidence that routine supplementation with pomegranate juice or extract may protect and even improve cardiovascular function. Pomegranate also appears to counter the deleterious effects of diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and may even help to prevent and arrest the development of certain cancers. Exciting new research findings suggest that pomegranate likewise fights the inflammatory processes involved in Alzheimer’s disease, osteoarthritis, and gum disease, while protecting the health of the skin and the liver.

Utilizing concentrated, low-cost pomegranate juice or standardized pomegranate extract capsules offers consumers a way to reap the broad-spectrum health benefits of this exotic fruit, while avoiding the excessive sugar calories and high cost associated with commercial pomegranate juice products.

Pomegranate Challenged in Media

The mainstream media is quick to leverage the latest information in the hopes of creating excitement. Regrettably, given the media’s penchant for covering medical and scientific issues in a distortive, misleading way, this makes for poor science reporting.

A recent example is a case report published in 2006 and highlighted by many mainstream publications, which suggested a link between pomegranate juice and a case of rhabdomyolysis (a serious illness characterized by muscle breakdown) in a 48-year-old man taking a prescription drug (the statin drug rosuvastatin, or Crestor®) to lower cholesterol.43

Unfortunately, the mainstream media failed to report a number of important facts in this case:

  1. The patient’s creatine phosphokinase (CPK) level (which measures muscle enzyme level and is typically elevated in rhabdomyolysis) was 659 U/L at baseline, which is already extremely elevated;
  2. This patient was taking a wide variety of other medications at the time of illness, medications that could have interacted in such a way as to cause problems;
  3. There was no discussion of the fact that although both grapefruit and pomegranate juice are known to inhibit a specific drug metabolism pathway (CYP3A4); rosuvastatin is not known to be metabolized by this pathway.

Given the impressive, scientifically documented health benefits of pomegranate in a wide variety of applications (e.g., cardiovascular system, prostate, and breast health), the great tragedy is that individuals who may derive tremendous benefit from pomegranate may not take this simple, natural product because of concern about having a potentially dangerous drug interaction—a misconception engendered by irresponsible reporting.

A recently published study helps to place in better context pomegranate’s potential to cause significant interactions with medications. This study evaluated the relative impact of several fruit juices on the CYP3A system, a well-known liver pathway responsible for metabolizing many prescription medications. This study showed that the inhibitory potential of pomegranate juice on human CYP3A was significantly less than that of grapefruit juice, in the order of: grapefruit > black mulberry > wild grape > pomegranate > black raspberry.44

The mainstream media has a responsibility to accurately report the facts and not cause consumers to overreact to fear-mongering, misleading reports.

References

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