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Pomegranate Juice May Clear Clogged Arteries

Forget the coffee or orange juice: A new study shows that pomegranate juice (search) should be the beverage of choice to fight hardening of the arteries (search).

Researchers found that pomegranate juice not only appears to prevent hardening of the arteries by reducing blood vessel damage, but the antioxidant-rich juice may also reverse the progression of this disease.

Hardening of the arteries, known medically as atherosclerosis (search), refers to the build up of plaque in the walls of arteries. This causes decreased blood flow that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Pomegranate Juice Soothes Stressed Arteries

In the study, researchers tested the effects of pomegranate juice on samples of human cells that line blood vessels. The cells were exposed to excessive physical stress, such as might occur with high blood pressure.

Cells that were treated with pomegranate juice had less evidence of damage from the stress.

In addition, tests on mice showed that pomegranate juice significantly slowed hardening of the arteries that developed from high cholesterol.

If further studies show those results in humans, researchers say pomegranate juice may be useful in both prevention and treatment of heart disease.

Pomegranate Tops Other Juices

The tests showed that pomegranate juice reduced the effects of stress on human blood vessel cells by stimulating the production of nitric oxide. This chemical is thought to help stall hardening of the arteries.

Researchers say the beneficial effects of pomegranate juice on hardening of the arteries are likely largely due to its high antioxidant (search) content. The study showed that the antioxidant level in pomegranate juice was higher than that found in other fruit juices, including blueberry, cranberry, orange, and even red wine.

Previous studies on red wine, black tea, and purple grape juice have already indicated these antioxidant-rich beverages can protect arteries from damage by improving blood flow. However, large clinical trials using different antioxidants have yet to show that antioxidants can prevent heart attacks and other major heart-related events.

The results of this study appear in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCES: Nigris, F. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 21, 2005 early online edition; vol 102: pp 4896-4901.