Thursday, September 23, 2010

Does it work? Pomegranates

Chloe Rhodes finds out the truth about the latest 'superfood'

Is there anything that pomegranates don't do? As well as being achingly fashionable - pomegranate martinis were served at the Oscars and Jo Malone's new fragrance is called Pomegranate Noir - the fruit has achieved "superfood" status.

A drawing of a pomegranate
Pomegranates are notoriously tricky to eat

Pomegranates have beneficial effects on heart disease, haemorrhoids, fertility and blood pressure - among other things - and this week, scientists have discovered their usefulness in treating prostate cancer and osteoarthritis.

What makes pomegranates so great?

A single pomegranate provides 40 per cent of an adult's recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, and is a rich source of folic acid and vitamins A and E. One pomegranate also contains three times the antioxidant properties of red wine or green tea.

What do they do?

Cancer:pomegranates contain high levels of flavenoids - a type of antioxidant - which are exceptionally effective at neutralising cancer-causing free radicals. Research published this year suggests that the fruit may be effective at fighting both breast and skin cancer, and this week American scientists found that pomegranate juice slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells in mice injected with the human form of the disease.

Heart disease: new research has found that one glass of pomegranate juice a day could improve blood flow to the heart by more than a third. The fruit's antioxidant properties prevent bad cholesterol from forming, which keeps the arteries clear and reduces the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes. A separate study found that drinking pomegranate juice regularly can also dramatically reduce the size of atherosclerotic lesions, which narrow the arteries and cause heart failure.

Osteoarthritis: the most recent revelation about the pomegranate's health benefits suggests that extracts of the fruit could prevent the onset of osteoarthritis. Scientists in America treated samples of human cartilage damaged by osteoarthritis with the extract and found that it inhibited the production of the enzyme responsible for causing the damage. Further research is needed to establish whether consuming the extract could protect cartilage as effectively.

How should you eat them?

Pomegranates are notoriously tricky to eat as the flesh is attached firmly to the bitter pith; for this reason, perhaps, they are not common in supermarkets. The easiest way to get a good portion is by drinking the juice, which is available widely and is proving popular.

A final word

Claire Williamson of the British Nutrition Foundation sounds a note of caution: "Animal or in vitro studies that have shown the potential health benefits of consuming pomegranates are promising, though further research is needed in humans to confirm them."

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