Diabetes Diet

A Superfood to Fight Disease?

A superfood pomegranate tree with antioxidants that help fight disease like diabetes and CVD.
Image by AselvadaAna @Pixabay

Widely regarded as a superfood, pomegranate is a vibrant red fruit linked to health and wellness. But can pomegranates help fight disease?1,2  The benefits of pomegranates are attributed to their high levels of antioxidants, even beating out green tea and orange juice for antioxidant content.1,2   Increasing antioxidant intake may help prevent and control conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) that can be impacted by lifestyle modifications, like improving the diet.1,2

Pomegranates and diabetes management

Published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, Amri et al. investigated if pomegranate extract(s) can improve platelet function (prevent excessive clotting) and prevent peripheral organ damage through the regulation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that are linked to nerve, eye, and kidney damage.1 The researchers used different pomegranate extracts like 

  • juice
  • peels, 
  • seed oil, 
  • leaves, 
  • and flowers.1

Pomegranate extracts and blood clotting

An experiment was performed to understand if pomegranates are truly a superfood for diabetes. The research involved testing responses using human plasma containing platelets and factors that promote clotting, like collagen.1 Each type of pomegranate extract was separately tested in the plasma mix to determine if the desired outcome of platelet function would be inhibited.1 

The results were a decrease in the activity of platelets with the intake of

  • pomegranate flowers,
  • pomegranate peels,
  • and pomegranate juice.1

Of these extracts, pomegranate flowers had the most substantial inhibitory effect on platelet function and, thus, excessive blood clotting.1

Pomegranate extracts and organ damage

Next, the effects of pomegranate on levels of AGEs were assessed to determine the fruit compounds’ ability to prevent diabetes-induced damage to nerves, eyes, and kidneys.1  Lower levels of AGESs were seen with extracts of

  • pomegranate flowers, 
  • pomegranate peels,
  • and pomegranate leaves.1

Pomegranates and CVD management

In addition to helping with diabetes, increasing the intake of antioxidants may also be beneficial for CVD management.1,2 Research has shown that pomegranate extracts can slow the development of atherosclerosis (thickening of arteries due to cholesterol build-up), and improve blood pressure.2 A new study published in Antioxidants further highlighted the benefits of pomegranates for cardiovascular health.2 

In this study, 24 healthy participants were randomly divided into a treatment or control group.2 Those in the treatment group took a daily capsule containing one whole extracted pomegranate for 28 days.2 The control group took a capsule once a day, but this did not contain any pomegranate.2

A pomegranate per day

After the 28-day study period, differences were observed in participants who consumed pomegranate extract in the form of a capsule versus those who did not.2 Participants given pomegranate extracts showed:

  • an improvement in blood pressure,
  • a decrease in levels of cortisol, which is implicated in both diabetes and CVD as it raises blood glucose levels,
  • and increases in lean body mass percentage.2

All of these outcomes are beneficial when it comes to controlling CVD progression.2

Conclusions

Overall, the beneficial effects of different pomegranate extracts on platelet function and production of AGEs were attributed to the fruit’s antioxidant properties.1 Amri et al.’s research suggests that pomegranates may be a superfood for diabetes management, given that this fruit can regulate factors that contribute to diabetes.1

While further data on the effects of pomegranates on cardiovascular health are required, this superfood may positively alter factors that lead to CVD.2  Research indicates that pomegranate extracts help regulate blood pressure, stress, and body composition – all of which are implicated in CVD.

A simple lifestyle modification

Given the available research, are pomegranates a superfood to fight disease? Although pomegranates are an excellent source of antioxidants and are associated with various health benefits, more clinical research is needed to give a definitive answer.1,2  Diabetes and CVD are complex conditions that can result from lifestyle-dependent risk factors, including low levels of exercise and poor nutrition.2 One way to lower risk is to substitute antioxidant-rich fruits, like pomegranates, for processed treats.2

To improve your overall health, research supports following a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.2 If you are interested in learning more about nutrition and how it may improve health, please reach out to a nutritionist and or your healthcare provider.

References 

  1. Amri Z, Amor IB, Zarrouk A, Chaaba R, Gargouri J, Hammami M, Hammami S. Anti-glycation, antiplatelet and antioxidant effects of different pomegranate parts. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2022;22(339). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-022-03824-6
  2. Al-Dujaili EA, Casey C, Stockton A. Antioxidant properties and beneficial cardiovascular effects of a natural extract of pomegranate in healthy volunteers: A randomized preliminary single-blind controlled study. Antioxidants. 2022;11(11). https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox11112124

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