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Enhance Endothelial Health

How Pomegranate Protects Against Atherosclerosis

November 2014

By James Harrison

Human Studies Support Pomegranate

Pomegranate’s ability to mobilize the body’s own self-defense forces against endothelial dysfunction are validated by human studies. A dose of 150 mL of fresh pomegranate juice once daily for two weeks in patients with hypertension demonstrated reductions in both systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressures. These changes were accompanied by significant decreases in levels of vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1), an important endothelial-produced inflammatory protein.8,34 These changes after such a short period indicate the potential for long-term benefit of pomegranate supplementation on blood pressure and the inflammation that raises risk for heart attack and stroke.8

One common way of determining endothelial function and early atherosclerosis risk is to measure the thickness of inner and middle layers of the arterial wall, where the endothelium and muscle layers lie, respectively.35 This measure, called intima-media thickness (IMT) after the names of those layers, is an excellent predictor of future cardiovascular events.36 Increased IMT is associated with vascular risk factors and cardiovascular diseases.36

In a study of pomegranate juice supplementation in a group of people who already had increased IMT, the results showed those who did not consume the pomegranate had a 9% increase in IMT over one year. Those who did drink pomegranate juice had an average reduction in IMT of up to 30%.9 This was accompanied by an 83% increase in the patients’ levels of the beneficial antioxidant enzyme PON-1. Additionally, levels of oxidized LDL dropped by 90%, further reducing risk of heart attack or stroke, probably related to the fact that total antioxidant status was increased by 130% after a year of pomegranate supplementation. These beneficial changes were accompanied by a 12% reduction in systolic blood pressure over one year.9

A subsequent study revealed that pomegranate supplementation also reduced progression of IMT thickening in those subjects with the worst oxidative stress and highest triglyceride/lowest HDL groups.10 These studies provide direct evidence of how pomegranate ramps up the body’s protective responses to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In a remarkable 2014 study, researchers found that adding pomegranate extract to the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin lowered dangerous production of reactive oxygen species in white blood cells from patients with high cholesterol by 30%, compared with only an 18% decrease in those on the drug only.37 Similarly, the pomegranate-plus-simvastatin group saw a significant 48% reduction in triglyceride levels, which did not fall in the drug-only group.37

Pomegranate seed oil contains punicic acid, a beneficial fatty acid unique to pomegranate. Lab studies have shown it to have powerful anti-atherogenic effects.38 A human study demonstrated that after four weeks of pomegranate seed oil, 400 mg twice daily in people with high cholesterol, their triglyceride levels fell from 306 mg/dL to 244 mg/dL, and their ratios of triglyceride to HDL cholesterol (an important measure of cardiovascular risk) fell from 7.5 to a safer 5.7. Supplemented patients also had a beneficial increase of 5 mg/dL in HDL-cholesterol, which fell by 0.77 mg/dL in placebo recipients.38

Editor’s note: Triglyceride levels should optimally be below 100 mg/dL. Fish oil and the prescription drug metformin can sharpy lower triglyceride levels.

Enhancing HDL’s Ability To Remove Arterial Plaque
Enhancing HDL’s Ability To Remove Arterial Plaque

Scientists long ago documented the ability of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) to remove cholesterol affixed to arterial walls and transport it to the liver for safe disposal.

This is why it is so important to maintain HDL levels above 50 mg/dL of blood and follow steps Life Extension® has outlined to ensure optimal reverse cholesterol transport of lipids away from the arterial wall.

HDL does more than just cleanse arterial walls of plaque. It also protects LDL against oxidation, while inhibiting chronic inflammation, vascular adhesion molecules, and platelet activation—factors that can all lead to atherosclerosis.

For HDL to perform its vital functions, an enzyme called paraoxonase-1 (PON-1) is attached to its surface.

As humans age, PON-1 levels markedly decline, thereby reducing the ability of HDL to protect against heart attack and stroke. This phenomenon helps explain the onset of accelerated atherosclerosis, where within a period of only a few years, an aging person’s healthy arteries rapidly occlude with plaque.

The age-related reduction in PON-1 may also explain studies showing that statin drugs lose their benefit in certain aging populations, since the effects of statins are no longer sufficient to protect against the multiple factors involved in the development of atherosclerosis in the elderly.52-54

Lipid peroxidation is a free-radical reaction that severely damages cell membranes and is implicated in a host of degenerative diseases. PON-1 blocks destructive lipid peroxidation reactions,55-58 making it a crucial enzyme for aging humans to maintain.

PON-1 is anchored to the surface of HDL and is emerging as a formidable defense against atherosclerosis, diabetes , stroke, arthritis, and certain forms of cancer.

Pharmaceutical companies would pay a king’s ransom for a drug that elevates PON-1 levels in the body. Fortunately, scientists have discovered low-cost natural methods to elevate PON-1, such as consuming pomegranate.


Atherosclerotic plaque  

Your endothelium, the thin layer of cells lining your blood vessels, is the major regulator of blood flow and pressure, communicating with the smooth muscle cells via signaling molecules including nitric oxide.

Aging increases oxidant stresses that destroy nitric oxide, while simultaneously reducing protective antioxidant mechanisms. This leads to atherosclerosis, formerly known as “hardening of the arteries,” which in turn, is the major cause of heart attack and stroke.

Pomegranate extracts act via several different, but complementary mechanisms to restore the body’s endothelial defenses, lowering risk factors for a cardiovascular event, and helping to keep arteries supple and youthful. Pomegranate extracts have been shown to promote cholesterol outflow from macrophages, to enhance natural antioxidant systems like superoxide dismutase (SOD), and to directly protect LDL from oxidant damage and resulting inflammation.

A robust form of the antioxidant enzyme SOD has been developed that enhances SOD activity beyond what is provided by pomegranate. Studies show that this product, GliSODin®, survives passage through the stomach to boost SOD levels, which may reduce cardiovascular risk by improving endothelial health.48

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.


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