Cancer-Fighting Properties of Pomegranate

This review presents a collective evidence of various literatures that prove that pomegranate consumption may help in the prevention of inflammation-mediated diseases like cancer. Different parts of the pomegranate fruit namely seeds, peel and juice were analyzed for their antioxidant properties for cancer prevention. The aim of this review is to highlight the impressive data on the anti-cancer effects of pomegranate.

There exists increased awareness among the public that certain diseases such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease can be prevented. The ability of food to treat certain ailments was understood even a couple of millennia ago. Pomegranate has been used to treat certain inflammatory diseases for centuries. Scientific investigation on the therapeutic effects of pomegranate has gained importance over the past decade. The collective information on various studies on the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects of the pomegranate fruit and its extract is highlighted in this review. Significant progress has been made in the last few years to understand the chemical constituents of the fruit and their pharmacological mechanisms responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects. Pomegranate inhibits cancer cell growth (anti-proliferative) and its consequent spreading to other organs (anti-invasive and antimetastatic). The anti-cancer effects of pomegranate juice are related to its potential ability to induce cancer cells to self-destruct (apoptosis) by activating genes and enzymes that regulate apoptosis.

The review included 96 research publications and involved the analysis of chemical constituents (responsible for therapeutic effects) of various parts of pomegranate. Their antioxidant, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory behaviors were examined through ex vivo, in vitro, and in vivo studies. The animal and human trials on the efficacy are important to confirm the therapeutic nature of pomegranate and its extracts for treatment. Studies on toxic effects due to the consumption of pomegranate, by means of food-drug and drug-drug interaction were reviewed.

Results/Key findings
* Polyphenols are responsible for the antioxidant property by means of oxidation prevention actions, metal chelation, reactive species scavenging, enzyme modulation, and preventing LDL (low-density lipoprotein) oxidation.
* The chemical constituents identified in pomegranate responsible for its therapeutic effects are ellagic acid, punicalagins, punic acid, anthocyanins, flavonols, flavan-3-ols, and flavones.
* Although pomegranate seeds contain the lowest polyphenols, their antioxidant property is due to the presence of conjugated punicic acid. The peel shows the highest antioxidant property, with the highest content of polyphenols, namely tannins and ellagitannins. The antioxidant property of the juice is higher than the seeds but lower than that of the peel.
* In addition to its anti-cancer ability, the fruit also possesses anti-obesity and antidiabetic property. It also enhances immunity. It also prevents cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
* No toxic effects were reported with the consumption of pomegranate juice in animal and human studies.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The methods adopted for studying free radical scavenging of pomegranate was different for different researchers. In addition, different authors have used only a specific extract of peel or seed and therefore the comparison of the effect of bioactive components is extremely difficult. The biological interaction of pomegranate juice with drugs needs further studies.

The antioxidant, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties of pomegranate have been unequivocally proven by various animal and human studies. However, it is important to understand that the interactions between the beneficial constituents in the whole pomegranate confer the therapeutic properties. Therefore, drug development strategies should deviate from the orthodox practice of isolation of individual key agents. Although no deleterious health effects were reported by the participants on consumption of pomegranate, the findings cannot be extended to consumption of enriched pomegranate extracts. Thus, moderate and occasional consumption of pomegranate or its juice is beneficial to health, as it has the ability to prevent various acute diseases.

For More Information:
The Bioactivity of Pomegranate: Impact on Health and Disease
Publication Journal: Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, May 2011
By Ana Faria; Conceição Calhau; University of Porto, Porto, Portugal


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