The relationship between pomegranate and Alzheimer’s disease, a hard-rind fruit and a thus-far incurable neurodegenerative disease, may be hard to fathom.
But during a two-year project, scientists busted through that tough outer covering. They discovered that this not so pretty fruit harbors a beautiful surprise that may have a positive impact on the future of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Link between pomegranate and Alzheimer’s disease
A team of scientists at the University of Huddersfield, along with colleagues at the University of Freiburg, found that a polyphenol (plant substance with antioxidant characteristics) compound in pomegranates called punicalagin appears to help slow down or possibly even prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Specifically, it works on specialized brain cells called micrologia. When these cells become inflamed, it leads to the destruction of more brain cells, and the result is progressive worsening of Alzheimer’s disease.
When the animals were treated with the pomegranate derivative, it inhibited pro-inflammatory factors, including tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin 6, and prostaglandin E2.
In fact, inflammation is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, as it is of many other serious health issues, including heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. One of the potential bonuses of the current study findings is that this pomegranate derivative may also help with painful inflammation that is part of rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, according to the authors.
Although these impressive results have been demonstrated only in rats, the researchers plan to continue their studies to see how this pomegranate derivative can be used someday in humans. After all, it’s been projected that the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia will rise dramatically in the coming decades.
According to the study’s lead author and scientist, Dr. Olumayokun Olajide, an expert in anti-inflammatory properties of natural substances, pomegranates offer many health benefits, including prevention of the inflammation that accompanies dementia. He personally recommends drinking 100 percent pomegranate juice, which contains about 3.4 percent punicalagin.
Numerous studies have indicated that pomegranate juice and the fruit pack some potent health benefits for a wide range of problems. One study, for example, found that pomegranate juice can help kidney dialysis patients. Others have noted how the juice may help in the fight against prostate cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as a superbug). The fruit juice also may relieve high blood pressure, as noted in a recent Phytonutrient Research study.
Final note on pomegranate and Alzheimer’s disease
In 2014, an estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and two-thirds of them are women, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That first number is projected to rise to 16 million by the year 2050. Scientists need to leave no stone—or fruit—unturned in the quest to find effective preventive methods, treatments, and ultimately a cure for this devastating disease. Pomegranates may be one such discovery in that quest.
Asgary S et al. Clinical evaluation of blood pressure lowering, endothelial function improving, hypolipidemic and anti-inflammatory effects of pomegranate juice in hypertensive subjects. Phytotherapy Research 2014 Feb; 28(2): 193-99
Olumayokun A et al. Punicalagin inhibits neuroinflammation in LPS-activated rat primary microglia. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 2014; published online July 28