I ate pomegranates as a kid as one of those deserts that turned out to be a lot of work, left me with red fingers, and was pretty tart. I had not eaten many pomegranates in my life. But, when I took charge of my own health after having a minor heart attack, I researched what I could do to fix years of living on the American diet. The answer came quickly, pomegranate juice. I thought, drinking the juice has to be less work and if done right, should not leave me with red fingers. So I started drinking 8 ounces of pomegranate juice a day.
Twelve years ago, so this is not new information, doctors in Israel published research [i] that showed that drinking even a small amount of pomegranate juice, 2 ounces, a day actually reversed the effects of atherosclerosis.
Heart disease is an often shortened name for cardiovascular disease, and it's usually more of the vascular part that kills people. Blockages in our arteries stop the blood from flowing to either our hearts or our brains. A 2016 report from the American Heart Association claims that cardiovascular disease is responsible for 17.3 million deaths a year in the United States and that by 2030, only 14 years away, the death rate is expected to be 23.6 million people a year. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute "In 2010, cardiovascular, lung, and blood diseases accounted for 1,017,000 deaths and 41 percent of all deaths in the United States."
Dr. Aviram and the scientists in Israel have not stopped their work. They also suggested eating dates (about 5 day) along with drinking pomegranate juice. They also recommend eating the ground up pits, but I could never figure out how to grind up date pits, so I just eat the dates.
So why did I choose pomegranate juice as a way to reverse atherosclerosis? According to lifeextension.com, [vii] "studies indicate that pomegranate confers unprecedented cardiovascular protection by restoring endothelial health, lowering blood pressure, and protecting low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from damaging oxidation." If you have been following my articles you know that I've said there is no such thing as bad cholesterol. Unfortunately, bad things happen to the LDL version of cholesterol that causes calcium plaques to form in our arteries. This is all part of our body's natural defense system at dealing with inflammation in artery walls. Oxidation of the LDL cholesterol is what makes the whole process go bad. (oxidation/antioxidants get it?)
Nitric Oxide is the key. This is a chemical in our body which helps care for our arteries by repairing damage to our arterial walls. In addition to repair of the arterial wall, nitric oxide also supports increased blood flow by smoothing vascular muscle. Pomegranate juice delivers a one-two punch of sorts. Oxidized LDL lowers the development of nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme that produces nitric oxide, which we now know works to manage the health of our arteries. Pomegranate does two things, it first enhances the bioactivity of nitric oxide synthase in endothelial cells and then secondly, it uses its antioxidant abilities to both stop oxidation of the LDL to begin with and protects nitric oxide from oxidative destruction.
In Dr. Aviram et al.'s study, after 3 months, the average thickness of the arterial wall decreased by 13%, and after 12 months, the thickness was reduced by 35% compared to the baseline. In the same 12 months, the average carotid artery thickness of the placebo group increased by 9%.
Doctor Aviram's was not the only study to confirm these results. A year after Aviram et al. published their study the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in California studied the effects of pomegranate juice in patients who already had coronary heart disease [ii] The results of the study were published in the American Journal of Cardiology. In this study, 45 patients either randomly drank 8 ounces (why I chose 8 ounces for myself) of pomegranate juice or the control group drank a placebo beverage every day for a three month period.
All the people in the study began with roughly the same restriction of arterial blood flow. By the end of the study, the test group that drank pomegranate juice saw a significant improvement in blood flow to their hearts. As in Aviram's study, the placebo group got worse.
The California PMRI study showed that the improved blood flow could not be attributed to changes in weight, blood sugar, or cardiac medications. They determined that drinking pomegranate juice was the determining factor.
Another study in mice [viii] also showed that not only does drinking the pomegranate juice aid in reversing atherosclerosis, but eating the fruit parts, such as the peel and seed had a beneficial effect.
Another, more recent 2013 study in mice in the journal Atherosclerosis, determined that pomegranate extract reduced aortic sinus and coronary artery atherosclerosis in mice. It said in the study conclusion, "The atheroprotective effects of pomegranate extract appear to involve reduced oxidative stress and inflammation in the vessel wall despite unaltered systemic markers of inflammation and increased lipoprotein cholesterol in these mice."
Later, in 2015 my newest hero, Dr. Aviram, believed that eating dates would be beneficial. He and his researchers published a study in Food & Function, a journal of The Royal Society of Chemistry, That showed that eating the triple combination of pomegranate juice, dates, and date pits provided maximum protection against the development of atherosclerosis because the combination reduced oxidative stress in the arterial wall by 33% and decreased arterial cholesterol content by 28%.
The results are pretty definitive. It was certainly enough to convince me to drink pomegranate juice and eat dates. Here is a bit of advice. Try and get pure, unsweetened pomegranate juice, preferable not from concentrate. Many grocery stores carry it in the juice section, or you can find it your local health food store. Beware, because of the new popularity of pomegranate as a superfood, you'll find all kinds of pomegranate concoctions. Just drink the pure juice. As far as the dates go, they were a bit trickier to locate because, as luck would have it, not all dates are created equally when it comes to arterioprotective benefits. I made up that word, arterioprotective! He recommends halawi dates. I found them for sale on nuts.com. In fact, they come with the pits so if you can figure out a good way to grind them let me know. Forget putting them in your Champion juicer, I almost wrecked mine trying. I am not associated with nuts.com but they have a monthly subscription and they deliver without shipping charges. So, it's a great way to get your dates, and grab some nuts and mushrooms from them while you are at it. I've enjoyed all of them. Nice people too.
As always, I am not a doctor and I am simply sharing the results of my own research in my personal search to live a healthier life. I urge everyone to do their own research and if I can give you a head start along that path then my I've served my purpose.
Long and healthy life to you all,
ps, I have put together a page that carries the products I use myself. If you buy the products through that page I get an affiliate fee. Thanks
- [i] Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Gaitini D, et al. Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation. Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun;23(3):423-33.
- [ii] Sumner MD, Elliott-Eller M, Weidner G, et al. Effects of pomegranate juice consumption on myocardial perfusion in patients with coronary heart disease. Am J Cardiol. 2005 Sep 15;96(6):810-4.
- [iii] Aviram M, Dornfeld L. Pomegranate juice consumption inhibits serum angiotensin converting enzyme activity and reduces systolic blood pressure. Atherosclerosis. 2001 Sep;158(1):195-8.
- [iv] Ignarro LJ, Byrns RE, Sumi D, de NF, Napoli C. Pomegranate juice protects nitric oxide against oxidative destruction and enhances the biological actions of nitric oxide. Nitric Oxide. 2006 Sep;15(2):93-102.
- [v] Basu A, Penugonda K., Pomegranate juice: a heart-healthy fruit juice. Nutr Rev. 2009 Jan;67(1):49-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2008.00133.x.
- [vi] de Nigris F, Williams-Ignarro S, Botti C, Sica V, Ignarro LJ, Napoli C. Pomegranate juice reduces oxidized low-density lipoprotein downregulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase in human coronary endothelial cells. Nitric Oxide. 2006 Nov;15(3):259-63.
- [vii] http://www.lifeextension.com/Magazine/2007/2/report_pomegranate/
- [viii] Michael Aviram, Nina Volkova, Raymond Coleman, Mark Dreher,et al., Pomegranate Phenolics from the Peels, Arils, and Flowers Are Antiatherogenic: Studies in Vivo in Atherosclerotic Apolipoprotein E-Deficient (E0 ) Mice and in Vitro in Cultured Macrophages and Lipoproteins, J. Agric. Food Chem. 2008, 56, 1148–1157