Anyone who drinks pomegranate juice, or is lucky enough to eat one fresh, can understand why it is so effective at cleansing the circulatory system. Nature certainly planted enough poetic visual clues there for us: its juice looks like blood, and it does resemble a multi-chambered heart, at least when you consider its appearance in comparison to most other fruits.
Indeed, your mouth and your arteries are lined with the same cell type: epithelial cells. Together, they make up the epithelium, one of four basic tissue types within animals, along with connective tissue, muscle tissue and nervous tissue, and which comprises the interior walls of the entire circulatory system. So, when you feel that amazing cleansing effect in your mouth, this is in fact akin to what your circulatory system – and the epithelium/endothelium lining the inside of your veins and arteries – “feels” as well.
The Pomegranate “Artery Cleaning” Clinical Trial
Published in Clinical Nutrition in 2004 and titled, “Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation,” Israeli researchers discovered pomegranate, administered in juice form over the course of a year, reversed plaque accumulation in the carotid arteries of patients with severe, though symptomless, carotid artery stenosis (defined as 70–90% blockage in the internal carotid arteries).
The study consisted of nineteen patients, 5 women and 14 men, aged 65-75, non-smokers. They were randomized to receive either pomegranate juice or placebo. Ten patients were in the pomegranate juice treatment group and 9 patients that did not consume pomegranate juice were in the control group. Both groups were matched with similar blood lipid and glucose concentrations, blood pressure, and with similar medication regimens which consisted of blood-pressure lowering (e.g. ACE inhibitors, β-blockers, or calcium channel blockers) and lipid lowering drugs (e.g. statins).
The ten patients in the treatment group group received 8.11 ounces (240 ml) of pomegranate juice per day, for a period of 1 year, and five out of them agreed to continue for up to 3 years.
The remarkable results were reported as follows:
“The mean intima media thickness the left and right common carotid arteries in severe carotid artery stenosis patients that consumed pomegranate juice for up to 1 year was reduced after 3, 6, 9 and 12 months of pomegranate juice consumption by 13%, 22%, 26% and 35%, respectively, in comparison to baseline values.”
You can only imagine what would happen if a pharmaceutical drug was shown to reverse plaque build up in the carotid arteries by 13% in just 3 months! This drug would be lauded the life-saving miracle drug, and not only would be promoted and sold successfully as a multi-billion dollar blockbuster, but discussion would inevitably follow as to why it should be mandated.
While these results are impressive, if not altogether groundbreaking for the field of cardiology, they may be even better than revealed in the stated therapeutic outcomes above. When one factors in that the carotid artery stenosis increased 9% within 1 year in the control group, the pomegranate intervention group may have seen even better results than indicated by the measured regression in intima media thickness alone. That is, if we assume that the pomegranate group had received no treatment, the thickening of their carotid arteries would have continued to progress like the control group at a rate of 9% a year, i.e. 18% within 2 years, 27% within 3 years. This could be interpreted to mean that after 3 years of pomegranate treatment, for instance, the thickening of the arteries would have been reduced over 60% beyond what would have occurred had the natural progression of the disease been allowed to continue unabated.
3 Ways How Pomegranate Heals The Cardiovascular System
The researchers identified three likely mechanisms of action behind pomegranate’s observed anti-atherosclerotic activity:
- Antioxidant properties: Subjects receiving pomegranate saw significant reductions in oxidative stress, including decreases in autoantibodies formed against ox-LDL, a form of oxidized low density lipoprotein associated with the pathological process of atherosclerosis. Decreases in oxidative stress were measurable by an increase in the blood serum enzyme paraoxonase 1 (PON1) of up to 91% after 3 years; PON1 is an enzyme whose heightened activity is associated with lower oxidative stress. All of this is highly relevant to the question of pomegranate’s anti-atherosclerotic activity because of something called the lipid peroxidation hypothesis of atherosclerosis, which assumes that it is the quality of the blood lipids (i.e. whether they are oxidized/damaged or not), and not their quantity alone that determine their cardiotoxicity/atherogenicity. Essentially, pomegranate prevents the heart disease promoting effects of oxidative stress.
- Blood Pressure Lowering Properties: The intervention resulted in significant improvement in blood pressure: the patient’s systolic blood pressure was reduced 7%, 11% ,10%, 10% and 12% after 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months of pomegranate consumption, respectively, compared to values obtained before treatment. Pomegranate’s ability to reduce systolic blood pressure indicates it has a healing effect on the endothelium, or the inner lining of the artery which fails to relax fully in heart disease; a condition known as endothelial dysfunction.
- Plaque Lesion Stabilization: Because two of the ten patients on PJ (after 3 and 12 months) experienced clinical deterioration, carotid surgery was performed and the lesions were analyzed to determine the difference in their composition to those who did not receive pomegranate. The researchers noticed four distinct positive differences in the composition of the pomegranate-treated lesions: 1. Reduced Cholesterol Content: “The cholesterol content in carotid lesions from the two patients that consumed PJ was lower by 58% and 20%, respectively, in comparison to lesions obtained from CAS patients that did not consume PJ (Fig. 3A).” 2. Reduced Lipid Peroxides: “[T]he lipid peroxides content in lesions obtained from the patients after PJ consumption for 3 or 12 months was significantly reduced by 61% or 44%, respectively, as compared to lesions from patients that did not consume PJ (Fig. 3B). 3. Increased Reduced Glutathione Content: “A substantial increase in the lesion reduced glutathione (GSH) content, (GSH is a major cellular antioxidant) by 2.5-fold, was observed after PJ consumption for 3 or 12 months, (Fig. 3C). 4. Reduced LDL Oxidation: “LDL oxidation by lesions derived from the patients after PJ consumption for 3 or 12 months, was significantly (Po0.01) decreased by 43% or 32%, respectively, in comparison to LDL oxidation rates obtained by lesions from CAS patients that did not consume PJ (Fig. 3D).”
Essentially these results reveal that not only does pomegranate reduce the lesion size in the carotid arteries, but “the lesion itself may be considered less atherogenic after PJ consumption, as its cholesterol and oxidized lipid content decreased, and since its ability to oxidize LDL was significantly reduced.”