BOSTON — Few American men have heard of the pomegranate, and fewer still have eaten this curious-looking fruit loaded with red seeds. But new scientific findings suggest that pomegranates may one day find a place in healthful diets, reports the April 2007 issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
Two recent studies suggest that pomegranate juice may help fight prostate cancer. In one study, scientists grew cells from highly aggressive cases of human prostate cancer in tissue cultures. Pomegranate fruit extracts slowed the growth of the cultured cancer cells and promoted cell death. The researchers then implanted the cancer cells in mice. A group of mice that received water laced with pomegranate juice developed significantly smaller tumors than the untreated animals. In a preliminary study of men with prostate cancer, pomegranate juice lengthened patients’ PSA doubling time (the longer the doubling time, the slower the tumor is growing) from 15 months before treatment to 54 months on the juice.
Preliminary results in test tubes, animals, and humans suggest that pomegranates may also have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease. Studies show that pomegranate juice can protect LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidative damage. The juice has also been shown to slow the progression of plaques in mice with atherosclerosis. Results from two small clinical studies are even more intriguing, showing that carotid artery thickness decreased and cardiac blood flow improved in pomegranate juice drinkers. However, preliminary research also suggests that pomegranate juice may interact with certain medications, much like grapefruit juice does.
The bottom line: Early studies raise hopes that pomegranates may have potential benefits for prostate cancer and heart disease, but more research is needed to determine whether these hopes are justified.