(NaturalHealth365) Pomegranates, packed with antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber and beneficial tannins, are currently of great interest to researchers for their effects on cardiovascular health. But this tasty fruit, scientifically known as Punica granatum, is no “one-trick pony” – it turns out that pomegranate may also have stunning chemoprotective effects.
In a recent study, researchers were galvanized by the discovery that pomegranate juice had dramatic effects in slowing the development of prostate cancer – and their enthusiasm is justified. After all, what cancer therapy could be simpler, cheaper and less toxic than consuming a cup of luscious juice – one that features no adverse effects and is nutritious to boot? But the good news about pomegranate’s power just keeps on coming: along with inhibiting prostate cancer, pomegranate is showing potential to treat and prevent breast and colon cancer as well.
First, let’s look at the striking results of the prostate cancer study.
Pomegranate juice dramatically slows the growth of prostate cancer cells
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, accounting for 29 percent of all male cancers. In fact, the American Cancer Society says it is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Doctors assess the status of the disease by measuring how long it takes levels of PSA, or prostate-specific androgen, to double.
In a study published in Clinical Cancer Research, men with rising PSA rates were given eight ounces of juice a day – and the results were astounding. It took much longer for their mean PSA rates to double, with the time increasing from 15 months at baseline to 54 months into post-treatment.
Not only that, the participants experienced a 12 percent decrease in cell proliferation and a 17 percent increase in apoptosis – or cancer cell death. Noting these effects – and the “statistically significant prolongation of PSA doubling time” – the team called for additional study to further explore pomegranate’s benefits.
Research shows pomegranate inhibits breast cancer and intestinal tumors
In animal studies, pomegranate has shown protective effects in chemically-induced breast cancer. When given before and after exposure, pomegranate extract reduced the incidence, number and size of breast tumors.
In a study published in Nutrition and Cancer, the research team noted a “striking reduction of mammary tumor incidence and total tumor burden,” and expressed their belief that pomegranate could be developed as a drug to reduce risk of breast cancer.
Intestinal bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, substantially increase the risk of intestinal cancers. However, animals with experimentally-induced colitis that were treated with ellagic acid showed inhibited progression of colitis, along with a switching-off of signaling molecules that would otherwise be activated and promote cancer.
Finally, researchers have noted that pomegranate improved survival rates in animals with colon cancer.
How pomegranate targets cancer cells with multiple methods of action
Three pomegranate polyphenols in particular – luteolin, ellagic acid, and punicic acid – have been shown to prevent metastasis, delaying the development of tumors and inhibiting the spread and progression of prostate cancer in animals injected with human tumor cells.
Ellagic acid and punicalagin, two polyphenols in pomegranate, can prevent DNA damage. As mutations in genes set the stage for cancer, this is very good news. Pomegranate extract also interferes with abnormal cell-proliferation cycles – preventing the out-of-control proliferation that characterizes cancer – and combats inflammation by targeting pro-inflammatory molecules.
In addition, pomegranate extracts stop tumors from forming by causing apoptosis. They also inhibit angiogenesis – or formation of new blood vessels to nourish the tumor. And they help stop metastasis – the invasion of healthy tissue – by suppressing production of the “protein-melting” enzymes and signaling molecules that give cancer its invasiveness.
And, finally, pomegranate extract slows the growth of many hormone-dependent cancers.
Put pomegranate polyphenols to work for you
With such a full menu of cancer-fighting benefits, it only makes sense to avail yourself of the chemoprotective powers of pomegranate juice and extracts. Although there is no established dosage for pomegranate exract, some herbalists and integrative physicians advise amounts ranging from 50 ml to 240 ml a day.
Note: As a point of reference: 1 cup = 236.588237 milliliters
Since pomegranate can interact with some medications, seek the advice of a trusted naturopathic professional before supplementing.