Pomegranate: The Wellness Fruit

By Joyce Hendley, M.S., November/December 2008

This antioxidant-rich superfood may help protect against arthritis, diabetes and a long list of other diseases.

There are many good reasons to pick up a pomegranate: they’re festive, seasonal, pack tons of antioxidants and, a new study suggests, may help to relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease.

In a recent study from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, researchers gave mice either a daily dose of pomegranate extract or water, in addition to their regular food. Ten days later, the mice were chemically induced to develop rheumatoid arthritis.

After six weeks, all the water-treated mice developed arthritis, but only two-thirds of the pomegranate-treated mice did. When the pomegranate drinkers did develop arthritis, it tended to set in later and with much less severity. What’s more, the pomegranate-treated mice had significantly lower levels of inflammatory compounds in their joint fluids, suggesting that the antioxidant polyphenols in pomegranate juice might short-circuit the inflammatory process that causes pain and swelling in rheumatoid arthritis.

Most studies link pomegranate’s benefits to its powerful punch of polyphenols—including anthocyanins (found in blue, purple and deep-red foods) and tannins (also found in wine and tea). In a study published earlier this year, researchers found that compared with other antioxidant-rich beverages including blueberry juice, cranberry juice and red wine, “pomegranate [juice] naturally has the highest antioxidant capacity,” reports David Heber, M,D. Ph.D., study collaborator and director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.

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