Pomegranate Thwarts Cancer on Multiple LevelsJune 2018
By Gene Richmond
For years, scientists have been intrigued by pomegranate’s potential anti-cancer benefits.
Researchers are now discovering bioactive compounds in pomegranate can help thwart cancer at multiple stages of the development process.1-3
Pomegranate compounds are demonstrating the ability to protect against initial DNA mutations and impede existing cancers from spreading.1-7
All parts of the pomegranate plant, including the fruit, peel, and seeds, are rich in compounds that protect against chemical and physical threats to our cells.
These compounds include several families of polyphenols called tannins and flavonoids.1,3-5,8,9
What you need to know
- Pomegranate extracts contain large amounts of a wide range of polyphenols known to have cancer-preventive properties.
- Studies now show that pomegranate has tremendous potential to act as a powerful chemopreventive agent against prostate, breast, colorectal, and lung cancers through a series of overlapping, complementary mechanisms.
- These mechanisms include protecting DNA from damage, inhibiting excessive cell growth, promoting natural cancer-cell death by apoptosis, and preventing cancer from spreading.
- Regular pomegranate extract supplementation, one of nature’s greatest sources of bioactive polyphenols, may help protect the body from succumbing to cancer-causing processes.
Pomegranate’s Multiple Anti-Cancer Actions
Pomegranate extracts help combat cancer in several of the stages of tumor development.
Firstly, they interfere with multiple factors that damage DNA and cause the crucial first mutations of genetic material.1,10,11
If a mutation does occur, pomegranate extracts can:
- Impede the cell replication cycle.1,7,12-14
- Facilitate the death of mutated cells by apoptosis.6,9,12,15-17
- Impede new blood-vessel growth, or angiogenesis. This helps starve rapidly dividing tumors of nutrients and oxygen.9,18-20
If a malignant cell mass still manages to develop, pomegranate extracts impair its ability to invade local tissues and metastasize to distant ones.12,15,21
A Potent Cancer Blocker
Pomegranate extracts also have the unique ability to promote the production of a protective enzyme known as paraoxonase-1, or PON-1.8,22-30
PON-1 blocks the inflammation and oxidative stress that can contribute to the initial DNA damage that can trigger cancer.31-41
People with cancer have been found in multiple studies to have reduced levels of PON-1, while those with the poorer prognosis often have the lowest levels of PON-1 activity.31-41
Restoring and promoting PON-1 activity may be a powerful means of blocking cancer formation at its earliest stages—while reducing oxidative stress and inflammation can be beneficial at multiple stages.
As we’ll see next, these anti-cancer actions play a role in pomegranate’s ability to help prevent four of the most common—and deadliest—cancers: prostate, breast, colorectal, and lung.
Pomegranate Slows Prostate Cancer Growth
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in American men.42 Both animal and human studies have shown pomegranate’s ability to slow prostate tumor growth and prevent prostate cancers from forming.
Animal studies have found that pomegranate extracts slow prostate tumor growth in the lab and in mice prone to prostate cancer.16,19,42-46 The extracts work by inhibiting cell proliferation (inducing apoptosis), reducing inflammation, and inhibiting new blood-vessel formation—many of the anti-cancer mechanisms mentioned above.9,16,19,42,45
In the most dramatic of these studies, 100% of mice bred to be prone to prostate cancer developed tumors by 20 weeks, compared to only 20%-30% of those receiving pomegranate fruit extract.43 More importantly, the supplemented mice lived as much as 114% longer than the control animals.
Human studies have also shown pomegranate’s ability to slow prostate cancer growth, as demonstrated by PSA scores.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a reliable marker of the rate of prostate cancer growth. The PSA doubling time is the standard indicator of tumor growth rate. The shorter the doubling time, the more aggressive the tumor.
Among men with rising PSA, pomegranate supplementation lengthened the PSA doubling time by 1.6- to 3.6-fold.47,48
This represents increases of 6 to 39 months in the time it took the PSA to double, a respectable slowing of tumor growth by any standard.47,48
Protection Against Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among all women.49 It strikes nearly a quarter of a million women each year, killing more than 41,000.49
Most breast cancers are hormone-dependent, meaning that high levels of estrogen help the cancer to grow and spread.
Anti-estrogen therapies are a common form of treatment. They work by either lowering estrogen levels or by stopping estrogen from stimulating cancer growth.
A smaller percentage of breast cancers are hormone-independent, making them harder to treat using anti-estrogen therapies.
Pomegranate extracts have shown preventive activity in laboratory studies against estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells,6,50,51 with a pair of related human cancer cell studies finding that pomegranate peel and seed extracts inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells by more than 80%.52,53
Pomegranate has the unique ability to interact with the body’s normal hormone metabolism, making it especially beneficial against the more common hormone-dependent breast cancers.
Compounds found in pomegranates can inhibit the enzymes that convert less active forms of estrogen into cancer-promoting estrogen molecules.54
These results show pomegranate can block specific pathways that link estrogen metabolism to breast cancer.
Early Promise in Colorectal Cancer Prevention
Colorectal cancers are the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., accounting for more than 50,000 fatalities each year.55
Colon cells are constantly exposed to the flow of waste matter, toxins, and other materials capable of imposing powerful oxidative stress on cells. This makes them prime candidates for DNA damage, inflammation, and other factors that contribute to cancer.
The good news about colorectal cancers is that these tumors are also directly exposed to beneficial nutrients that we ingest.
Pomegranate extract is one of the best candidates for colorectal cancer chemoprevention because its polyphenols are delivered directly to human colonic tissues after consumption.56
In animal models of colorectal cancer, pomegranate extracts consistently—and significantly—inhibited tumor growth, reducing both the size and number of tumors.57,58 Pomegranate’s anti-cancer mechanisms included upregulating cellular anti-cancer enzyme systems.57,58
One of pomegranate’s most abundant classes of polyphenols, punicalagins, can inhibit enzymes capable of converting pro-carcinogens (precursors of cancer-causing molecules) into active carcinogens.59
Promising human studies have shown important alterations in genes and other markers of colorectal cancers when people supplement with pomegranate extracts.56,60,61
Pomegranate extracts have demonstrated properties against lung cancers.
In particular, pomegranate extracts have anti-inflammatory properties. This is valuable in reducing cancer risk because of the tumor-promoting effects of chronic inflammation.14,20
In animal models of lung cancer, pomegranate extracts reduced the numbers of tumors10,20 by as much as 66% compared with unsupplemented animals.20 These beneficial effects are attributed to slowing cell-replication and amplifying cell death by apoptosis.4,6,9,12,52
Finally, pomegranate extracts reduce production of specialized enzymes that cancer cells use to invade healthy cells.12 This property can help prevent cancer cells from spreading to other tissues, which lowers the deadliness of any cancer.
Pomegranate extracts have numerous properties capable of combatting cancer at multiple stages of the development process.
Studies show that pomegranate extracts protect DNA from mutations that trigger the earliest carcinogenic changes, inhibit cancer-cell growth, and help prevent cancer from spreading.
Pomegranate extracts show promise in preventing the growth and spread of four common types of cancer cells: prostate, breast, colon, and lung.
Their broad range of anti-cancer activities, attributable to their rich polyphenol content, makes them an excellent food and/or extract to ingest on a regular basis.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
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