Pomegranates - Nutritious Anti-Aging Miracle?

Can Pomegranates Help You Live Longer?

Opened pomegranate and seeds
Opened pomegranate and seeds. Getty Images/Jack Andersen/The Image Bank

Pomegranates play a role in health for their anti-aging properties in many cultures around the world. These days, you can find pomegranate juice, pomegranate seeds and pomegranate-based supplements touting the fruit's health benefits in almost any grocery in the United States.

But are pomegranates really worth the premium price you'll pay for these products? And, can pomegranates really help you live longer and healthier?

What is a Pomegranate, Anyway?

Pomegranates are the fruit from small trees (sometimes grown as large shrubs) that originally came from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. These trees have been cultivated all around the world for thousands of years. You can even find pomegranate trees in California, where the climate suits them.

The pomegranate certainly has gained in popularity over the last decade or two. It's common to find the juice in supermarkets, and some markets also sell pomegranate seeds packaged in cups.

Are the Health Claims About Pomegranates True?

Well, sort of.

The pomegranate fruit contains high levels of antioxidants, vitamin C, as well as other vitamins and minerals. All these nutritional components lead to claims of boosting the immune system, helping the heart and even fighting cancer.

But notice how health claims on exotic anti-aging products don’t ever give a percentage of benefit?

The products simply say “cancer fighting” not “reduces prostate cancer risk by 20%.” The reason for this is that these claims are usually made by marketers in principle, meaning that because we know that vitamin C is generally good for the immune system and pomegranates contain a lot of vitamin C, they also likely boost the immune system.

It's not to say that pomegranates don't help out — it's just that other fruits, supplements and foods do, too.

Pomegranates Fighting Cancer?

There's been a lot of specific hype (and some actual research) on the anti-cancer properties of pomegranates. The fruit, juice, seeds or extracts made from them have been investigated in breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and melanoma, among others.

The research hasn't found pomegranates to be a magic bullet against cancer. However, it has found that compounds from pomegranates may be helpful in inhibiting cancer tumor formation or in slowing the growth of tumors.

The effects were modest, though, and more research is clearly needed.

Should I Eat More Pomegranates?

Probably, just as it's a good idea to eat more of a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Adding in some occasional pomegranate juice or seeds will give your body some nutrients it wouldn’t be getting from other sources.

But you don’t have to go pomegranate crazy. Just work some into your weekly diet.

The easiest (and most expensive) way to do this is to buy pomegranate juice. These juices contain high concentrations of pomegranate and have a strong, almost bitter taste. I have to cut my pomegranate juice with water or club soda.

A more fun way to get pomegranates in your diet is a sweet syrup made from pomegranates called grenadine. This syrup can be used to add exotic flavors to cooking or cocktails. If you are very good in the kitchen, you can even buy whole pomegranates and work with the fruit yourself. 

More on: Strange Foods for Longevity

Source(s):

Adhami VN et al. Cancer chemoprevention by pomegranate: laboratory and clinical evidence. Nutrition and Cancer. 2009;61(6):811-5.

Modaeinama S. et al. Anti Tumoral Properties of Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Peel Extract on Different Human Cancer Cells. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2015;16(14):5697-701.

Morton, J. 1987. Pomegranate. p. 352–355. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. accessed from the Center for New Crops & Plant Products, at Purdue University.

Continue Reading