A study in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by Italian and American scientists reports that pomegranate juice helped keep fatty deposits from collecting on artery walls in mice, and kept human heart cells healthier. The mice were specially bred to have high cholesterol and on human heart cells in culture.
Dr. Claudio Napoli, a professor of medicine and clinical pathology at the University of Naples School of Medicine in Italy, found that mice that drank pomegranate juice were able to significantly reduce the progression of atherosclerosis by 30 percent.
The pomegranate is a native Middle Eastern fruit which has crunchy seeds surrounded by juicy pulp and is a good source of potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants, Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Centre says the juice is probably the easiest way to gain benefit from the fruit. Dr. Napoli says previous studies suggested the antioxidants found in pomegranate juice might reduce plaque build-up on artery walls and reduce oxidative stress on endothelial cells, the cells that line blood vessels. These cells produce nitric oxide, a substance that helps the blood vessels relax.
The researchers found that heart cells treated with pomegranate juice had a 50 percent increase in nitric oxide production, and that mice given pomegranate juice reduced the rate of plaque build-up by about 30 percent. He says the protective effects of pomegranate juice are higher than previously assumed and suspects that the pomegranate juice appears to protect artery walls from fatty deposits because the increased nitric oxide production plays a role, and that polyphenols - powerful antioxidants contained in pomegranates and other foods - may directly protect the arteries by reducing oxidative stress; polyphenols are also found in blueberries, cranberries, oranges and grapes. Red wine also contains polyphenols.
Heller points out pomegranates are very healthy and high in antioxidants, but can be expensive and not always available, but all fruits and vegetables contain healthy phytochemicals, berries, beans, apples, pecans and artichokes are also high in antioxidants.She also says the findings on mice might not extrapolate to humans; an equivalent amount of pomegranate juice for humans would be the equivalent of about 16 ounces daily.