When it comes to pomegranates, it may be easier to ask what claims haven’t been made about the fruit. Available in juice, extract, oils and other forms, it’s been touted as a cure for every ill, from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. It’s been said that pomegranates help fight:
Pomegranate juice has powerful antioxidants called polyphenols, which some studies suggest may help prevent and repair the DNA damage that can lead to cancer. It may also slow cancer-cell growth.
Pomegranate extract was shown in a 2008 study to reduce the creation of inflammation-causing substances that can trigger arthritis.
Early research links consumption of concentrated pomegranate juice to reduced cholesterol. Polyphenols, found in much higher levels than in red wine or green tea, are thought to lower bad LDL cholesterol.
One 2006 study involving mice found that those treated with pomegranate juice had less buildup of plaque in the brain than those who didn’t, leading researchers to hypothesize that the juice may be able to protect the brain. In the study, the mice also showed an improved ability to learn new tasks.
In one study, pomegranate preparations applied to the mouth were effective at controlling oral inflammation, as well as bacteria and fungus associated with periodontal disease and certain denture-related conditions.
So the big question is, are these claims true? In short, the scientific jury is still out. Most studies analyzing the fruit’s healing powers are based on animal research, the results of which often don’t pan out in human studies. For those pomegranate studies that did involve humans, they often only included a small number of people.
While it may be too soon to call pomegranates a magical healing fruit, they do contain plenty of healthful antioxidants and the juice tastes great, so it can be a smart addition to your diet (be careful with portions, as fruit juice tends to be high in calories). But for people taking certain medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, the juice may affect how the body processes them, so caution is needed.