Appearances can be deceiving. The pomegranate shrub is not much to look at, but its fruit contains a wealth of nutrients for fighting cancer. According to some experts, it puts modern medicine to shame.
This red fruit’s antioxidants and anti-cancer properties have spawned an almost never-ending series of studies that show how it can protect the body’s normal cells while sending cancer cells into a death spiral.
It seems like almost every week a new study identifies a way in which its natural chemicals stymie cancer. This one recently caught my attention…
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that pomegranate’s natural compounds protect your skin from sun damage that can lead to skin cancer. Here’s how: When the sun’s ultraviolet light hits your skin, it sets off reactions that can potentially interfere with DNA repair, slow down cellular defenses against harmful oxidation, and make immune cells more inflammatory.
In their lab tests and reviews of other research, the Alabama scientists discovered that pomegranate stops the cancer creation process by:1
- Limiting chemical reactions in skin cells that can lead to precancerous growths.2
- Inhibiting harmful inflammation.3
- Preventing tumor formation.4
Now, I recognize that getting some sunlight every day is important for your health. I don’t go along with dermatologists who seem to believe we should slather ourselves with sunscreen and avoid letting the sun’s rays hit our skin at all. We need some sunlight to enable our skin to produce vitamin D. Besides, there are many other health benefits we can get from the sun – like keeping the body’s daily rhythms on track. So we shouldn’t totally avoid the sun as some doctors recommend.
But along with making sure you don’t get too much sun – excessive exposure that leads to sunburn – you need to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables that can give your body the tools it needs to offset the potential harm the sun’s ultraviolet radiation can cause to skin cells. Pomegranate is one of the fruits that are essential for your anti-cancer arsenal.
Prostate defender, when you know how to use it
When it comes to pomegranate’s influence on prostate cancer, the research results have been complicated and a bit controversial. You see, while the initial tests with pomegranate juice and extracts for prostate cancer looked very promising, further research indicates that the natural chemicals in pomegranate seem to help only certain men with prostate cancer.
What all that means: In reviewing tests of pomegranate compounds on men suffering prostate cancer, researchers from UCLA and Johns Hopkins believe that these antioxidant chemicals, when consumed all by themselves, may only be beneficial for men with prostate cancer who are over the age of 70 and who have a certain genetic makeup.5
Please note, this study related to men who already have prostate cancer. It says nothing about the potential of pomegranate for preventing prostate cancer.
But the secret to unlocking pomegranate’s prostate benefits for a wider group of men may be to combine its nutrients with other important natural chemicals. Exciting new research out of England suggests that mixing pomegranate extract with other known cancer-fighting nutrients found in green tea, broccoli and turmeric makes pomegranate more effective in slowing down the progression of prostate cancer.6
So what that says to me is that men concerned about their prostates should be eating a healthy diet containing all of these types of foods, as well as considering supplementation, to get a synergistic benefit that may be able to lower their risk of cancer.
Breast cancer fighter
And when it comes to lowering women’s risk of breast cancer, research reveals plenty of evidence that pomegranate is just what the doctor should have ordered. For instance, a study at the University of Albany in New York shows that pomegranate can restrain breast cancer cells from multiplying and induce the cancer cells to undergo apoptosis – the programmed cell death that is designed to eliminate the body’s malfunctioning cells.7
Studies at UCLA demonstrate that pomegranate compounds stop the action of an enzyme that can otherwise stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells and lead to the spread of tumors.8 At the same time, other research shows that the natural chemicals in this fruit can have epigenetic effects—they stimulate the genes in cancer cells that promote apoptosis, i.e. self-destruction. These pomegranate chemicals also shut down the genes that could otherwise help the cancer cells survive by repairing its DNA and making the cells multiply faster.9
Overall, pomegranate is a great example of how a natural food can contain a collection of natural chemicals that offer enough benefits to keep medical researchers busy for quite a while. Perhaps more exciting, its health effects go beyond cancer.
Relief from Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease
In an important investigation, researchers in India and the University of Louisville collaborated in a study showing that when pomegranate compounds enter the digestive tract they help cut back on cancer-linked inflammation. In doing so, they also defend the intestinal lining from damaging conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease.10
One key to this defense, say the researchers, is that the probiotic bacteria in the digestive tract convert pomegranate nutrients into what’s called Urolithin A (UroA). And UroA, in turn, increases the accumulation of proteins that tighten up the web of cells that line the intestines and keep toxins out of the body. That helps protect against colitis and cellular damage.
According to the researchers, this type of intestinal therapy offers hope for better treatments to fight inflammatory bowel conditions than conventional medicine has come up with so far. “Restoring the gut barrier and reducing the inflammation using (this type of) small-molecule will provide a better therapeutic output in the treatment of IBDs (inflammatory bowel diseases),” predicts researcher Praveen Kumar Vemula.
The researchers add that before their study, it was already known that UroA could fight inflammatory conditions in the intestine. But the added benefit they found – the fact that it simultaneously keeps the integrity of the intestinal walls intact – reveals that UroA is much more effective for keeping the intestines healthy and potentially cancer-free. That’s not all…
Protects your heart and helps heal burns
Investigations also demonstrate that pomegranate supports heart health by lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.11
Added to that, there is even research to show that pomegranate can be used to help heal serious burns.12 When I see studies like that, I know we’ll be hearing even more about how pomegranate helps the human body in the foreseeable future.