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Why Pomegranates Aren't as Wonderful as Many People Think

Most people think of pomegranates as a relatively “new” fruit, since the Pom Wonderful company popularized pomegranate juice in the US. But since ancient times, the fruit of the pomegranate has been held up as a symbol of fertility and good health. The pomegranate has been used in traditional societies as a dietary supplement for various conditions including wounds, sore throats and diarrhea.

The fruit has a leathery husk with many small pockets of edible seeds and juice inside. Researchers have studied all parts of the pomegranate for their potential health benefits, including the fruit, seed, seed oil, peel, root, leaf, and flower. Today, pure pomegranate and its derivatives are available in capsules, extracts, teas, powders, and juice products.

Despite the claims made by some producers of pomegranate products, we don’t have a lot of strong scientific evidence for the effects of pomegranate consumption on human health. One 2012 clinical trial of about 100 dialysis patients suggested that pomegranate juice may help ward off infections. In the study, the patients who were given pomegranate juice three times a week for one year were hospitalized less often for infections and had fewer signs of inflammation compared to patients who received a placebo.

Another trial found that pomegranate extract in mouthwash may help control dental plaque.

Pomegranate is most often marketed as a “healthy heart” supplement, but there’s limited research to back this claim. There are some early indications that it may help improve some signs of heart disease, but the research is not definitive. Federal agencies have taken action against companies selling pomegranate juice and supplements for deceptive advertising and making drug-like claims about the products.

Compared with a placebo, pomegranate juice did not help to improve the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in one 2006 study.

Currently, studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) are investigating how pomegranate extracts may affect arthritis.

As with any change in your diet, exercise or supplementation regime, you should tell your doctor before starting a pomegranate supplement or regular consumption of pomegranate products. Some people may have an allergic reaction to pomegranate. In rare cases, people who have eaten pomegranate fruit for many years have developed severe allergic reactions. It is also unclear whether pomegranate interacts with the blood thinning medicine warfarin or other, similar drugs, so if you take a blood thinner, exercise extra caution with pomegranate products.  


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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Raul Urzua de la Sotta

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