During the holiday season, pomegranates are often a part of the festive edible table displays. Coupled with various types of oranges, nuts and fruitcakes they share the spotlight. But pomegranates are beginning to get much recognition as a year-round healthy food. Our thanks to Gigi for pointing out the benefits of pomegranates and sharing the supporting research with the readers of Healthynewage.
What makes a food a SUPERfood?
I am a label reader. I enjoy reading the different ingredients in all the nutritional supplements I come across when I am at the local health food store. I’m always on the look out for food supplements that seem to cover the nutritional bases from A-Z. So, one day I was reading the ingredients on a box of what purports to contain all ten of the antioxidant “superfoods”. I came across the words punicalagins and ellagic acid and wondered immediately what they were and how they affect our body. What I found was truly astounding.
What are punicalagins?
Punicalagins are a type of tannic acid found in tea, where everyone expects it to be. Punicalagins are hydrolysable tannins, which simply means that these molecules react with water to form other compounds. They are large polyphenol compounds and have high bioavailability or absorption rate. Once they have been ingested, they hydrolyse into smaller polyphenols such as ellagic acid and they can even hydrolyze across the mitochondrial membrane of human colon cells. Very impressive stuff, because both tannins and ellagic acid are polyphenols which have truly beneficial properties for humans. ‘Poly’ means many, and ‘phenols’ are the backbone, so to speak, of most of the antioxidants found in plants. They include flavonoids, anthocyanins, and tannins, bringing us right back to the beginning. Sometimes I really love science!
One study in Taiwan showed that punicalagin alpha inhibited protein kinases ERK, JNK and Akt, all of which play roles in cancer growth, pointing out that punicalagins may be potent cancer suppressors. One note on the above, is that I am not a molecular biologist, and that my best guess is that the initials above do indeed represent protein kinases and pathways in the human body for cellular growth.
The role of ellagic Acid
When it comes to ellagic acid, the results are also impressive: when exposed to ellagic acid, human cervical cancer cells died a normal death. It also arrests the growth cycle of cancer cells, thus inhibiting the mitosis (division) of cells and cellular proliferation. Finally, it prevents the destruction of a cellular regulatory gene called P53. P53 is regarded as the safeguard of normal cellular division, and if inactivated, abnormal cell division/proliferation ensues.
These findings come from Dr. Nixon and his team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina. They also found that ellagic acid activates detoxifying enzymes in the liver, prevents the binding of carcinogens to cellular DNA, and stimulates the immune system for the destruction of cancerous cells.
Research on the benefits of pomegranates
Punicalagins can also be found in arils, the desirable food source covering the tiny seeds of the pomegranate. This is where the health benefits of pomegranates abound. I love pomegranates and eat them every winter; in fact, when other fruits disappear until the following summer, I know pomegranates will be there to satisfy that craving for something other than oranges, apples and bananas. Remarkably, there are people who have never partaken of a pomegranate, and do not know how to eat one. But what are their benefits?
The pomegranate has been the subject of more than 35 medical research studies since 1990 so there is a lot of information out there. Ellagic acid is actually the compound being studied more carefully, and it is produced during metabolism of punicalagin. Below is a list of some of the symptoms and diseases for which the benefits of pomegranate juice are being studied according to a clinical trial article:
- chemo preventive anticancer agent
- wound and periodontal healing
- dental and periodontal applications
- reduction of high blood pressure
- improvement of stress response in ischemic heart disease
- stimulation of bone metabolism
- inhibition of cholesterol synthesis and reduction of hyperlipidemia
- relief from oxidative erectile dysfunction
- stimulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase and protection of nitric oxide against oxidative destruction
- reduction of cardiac fibrosis
- stimulation of immune functions
- regeneration of epidermis and dermis cells
- photo chemo preventive protection against ultraviolet light, skin cancer application
An important note that I came across in my research was that the freeze dried varieties of these compounds are very potent, which is important if that’s the only place you can find punicalagins and ellagic acid. It is also important to note that researchers have not fully favoured these compounds as an alternative cancer treatment, and that everyone is different. However, as antioxidants that prevent free radical damage and can help us stay healthy, punicalagins and ellagic acid appear to be unbeatable!
Don’t be intimidated by a pomegranate. This red luscious looking fruit is becoming a hot new culinary trend and you can enjoy 70 great recipes in this colorful cook book.
The author’s brilliance goes beyond the normal cookbook recipes. The book is filled with traditional uses for pomegranates found in various cultures where they’re not just an occasional treat but a staple of the areas winter diet.
If you have more unanswered questions about pomegranates you can open up a whole new word of adventurous cooking with this beautiful cookbook with recipes that are easy to follow and yet very creative.
Pomegranate Medicinal Properties
If the studies and research shared in the above article peaked your interest then you may be eager to learn more medicinal properties that are found in the pomegranate, its juice and seeds. The editorial review of Pomegranate: The Ultimate Health Food states: “After many centuries in which the pomegranate’s medical usefulness was revered, but then forgotten in the stampede of pharmaceuticals, the pomegranate is again approaching center stage as a modern-day fountain of health”.