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Pomegranate Reverses Atherosclerosis and Slows the Progression of Prostate Cancer

February 2007

By Dave Tuttle

Pomegranate Protects Against Prostate and Other Cancers

For many years, scientists have used phytonutrients with antioxidant properties, such as curcumin and green tea, to help fight cancer. New evidence suggests that pomegranate may be similarly effective in countering cancer’s growth and spread.

For example, University of Wisconsin researchers investigated pomegranate’s benefits against several types of aggressive prostate cancer cells. A laboratory study found that pomegranate extract inhibits human prostate cancer cell growth while increasing programmed cancer cell death (apoptosis). Pomegranate increases the expression of a protein that promotes cancer cell death, while decreasing the expression of a protein that inhibits the demise of cancer cells.13

A study in mice by the same researchers found that oral consumption of pomegranate extract inhibits prostate cancer cell growth while markedly decreasing serum levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Rising levels of PSA are associated with the progression and recurrence of prostate cancer. The researchers concluded that pomegranate consumption might similarly help prevent prostate cancer or slow its progression in humans, thus prolonging survival and quality of life for patients.13

A study at the University of California at Los Angeles found similar benefits of pomegranate consumption.14 When eight ounces of pomegranate juice was given each day to prostate cancer patients, the average PSA doubling time rose from 15 months at baseline to 54 months in more than 80% of the study subjects. Since a longer PSA doubling time signifies slower disease progression, this 3.6-fold increase in doubling time is a dramatically positive result. Laboratory analysis of the patients’ pre- and post-treatment serum showed a 12% decrease in cell proliferation and a 17% increase in cancer cell death, demonstrating pomegranate’s cancer-fighting effects.

Pomegranate may also help to fight colon cancer. Pomegranate supplementation reduced the number and size of experimentally induced colon tumors in animal subjects.15 In the laboratory, pomegranate juice inhibited the proliferation and increased programmed cell death (apoptosis) of human colon cancer cells.16,17 Pomegranate juice may exert some of its effects by suppressing the activity of nuclear factor-kappa beta (NF-kB), a significant contributor to cancer and age-related disease.16 The expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), an inflammatory enzyme associated with colon cancer risk, was also dramatically reduced by pomegranate.16

Pomegranate similarly shows promise in averting deadly lung cancer. In the laboratory, pomegranate inhibited the growth and replication of human lung cancer cells. Additionally, administering pomegranate extract to animals implanted with human lung cancer cells suppressed tumor growth. Scientists believe that pomegranate may fight lung cancer through its inhibitory effects on NF-kB.18

Breast cancer may also respond to pomegranate’s anti-cancer effects. In the laboratory, pomegranate extracts inhibited human breast cancer cells’ ability to proliferate and spread to other areas (metastasize) and induced programmed cell death. Pomegranate displayed efficacy against both estrogen-dependent and estrogen-independent breast cancer cells.19

Pomegranate thus holds promise in fighting several of the most common cancers threatening aging adults today.

Pomegranate Supports the Skin’s Underlying Structure

Topical application of pomegranate has been shown to promote skin health via several mechanisms. For example, by suppressing lipid peroxidation in the skin, pomegranate helps shield against damage induced by ultraviolet light.20 In animal studies, pomegranate seed and fruit extracts significantly reduced the incidence and number of skin tumors in the animals after an experimental cancer-provoking challenge.21,22 Pomegranate inhibits two inflammatory enzymes, cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase, which may help protect the skin against the age-accelerating effects of inflammation.23 Pomegranate extract also protected human skin cells against the increase in NF-kB induced by ultraviolet-A light, suggesting a role for pomegranate in preventing skin cancer.24

Other studies have demonstrated that pomegranate helps reverse visible signs of aging by promoting a moderate thickening of the skin’s outer layer, known as the epidermis.25 Pomegranate fruit extract also provides nutritional support for fibroblast cells in the skin’s dermis, which lies below the epidermis; fibroblasts produce collagen and elastin, the critical structural fibers that provide the skin with support and flexibility. Pomegranate extract also increased dermal cell proliferation and collagen synthesis at the same time.25

In addition, pomegranate’s phenolic compounds effectively promote wound healing. Indian researchers noted that a topical pomegranate cream produced an average 35% reduction in the number of days required for complete recovery from an excision wound.26

Pomegranate extract thus helps protect the skin against the threats of ultraviolet light and inflammation, while supporting its underlying structure and helping to restore its youthful appearance and function.


Pomegranate is fast becoming one of today’s most talked-about nutrients. With emerging evidence indicating that it works via several mechanisms to remove plaque from human arteries, retard cancer growth, and promote more youthful-looking skin, pomegranate may soon be regarded as an essential nutrient. Its concentrated blend of powerful phytonutrients appears to confer profound protection against atherosclerosis, cancer, and other degenerative conditions. Health-conscious adults seeking to optimize their defense against these and other lethal diseases of aging should consider making pomegranate a part of their daily anti-aging regimen.


1. Aviram M, Dornfeld L, Rosenblat M, et al. Pomegranate juice consumption reduces oxidative stress, atherogenic modifications to LDL, and platelet aggregation: studies in humans and in atherosclerotic apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 May;71(5):1062-76.

2. Gil MI, Tomas-Barberan FA, Hess-Pierce B, Holcroft DM, Kader AA. Antioxidant activity of pomegranate juice and its relationship with phenolic composition and processing. J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Oct;48(10):4581-9.

3. Singh RP, Chidambara Murthy KN, Jayaprakasha GK. Studies on the antioxidant activity of pomegranate (Punica granatum) peel and seed extracts using in vitro models. J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Jan 2;50(1):81-6.

4. Ignarro LJ, Cirino G, Casini A, Napoli C. Nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the vascular system: an overview. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 1999 Dec;34(6):879-86.

5. de Nigris F, Williams-Ignarro S, Botti C, Sica V, Ignarro LJ, Napoli C. Pomegranate juice reduces oxidized low-density lipoprotein downregulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase in human coronary endothelial cells. Nitric Oxide. 2006 Nov;15(3):259-63.

6. Ignarro LJ, Byrns RE, Sumi D, de Nigris F, Napoli C. Pomegranate juice protects nitric oxide against oxidative destruction and enhances the biological actions of nitric oxide. Nitric Oxide. 2006 Sep;15(2):93-102.

7. de Nigris F, Williams-Ignarro S, Sica V, et al. Effects of a pomegranate fruit extract rich in punicalagin on oxidation-sensitive genes and eNOS activity at sites of perturbed shear stress and atherogenesis. Cardiovasc Res. 2006 Sep 1; [Epub ahead of print].

8. de Nigris F, Williams-Ignarro S, Lerman LO, et al. Beneficial effects of pomegranate juice on oxidation-sensitive genes and endothelial nitric oxide synthase activity at sites of perturbed shear stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2005 Mar 29;102(13):4896-901.

9. Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Gaitini D, et al. Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation. Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun;23(3):423-33.

10. Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Bisgaier CL, Newton RS, Primo-Parmo SL, La Du BV. Paraoxonase inhibits high-density lipoprotein oxidation and preserves its functions. A possible peroxidative role for paraoxonase. J Clin Invest. 1998 Apr 15;101(8):1581-90.

11. Aviram M, Hardak E, Vaya J, et al. Human serum paraoxonases (PON1) Q and R selectively decrease lipid peroxides in human coronary and carotid atherosclerotic lesions: PON1 esterase and peroxidase-like activities. Circulation. 2000 May 30;101(21):2510-7.

12. Aviram M, Dornfeld L. Pomegranate juice consumption inhibits serum angiotensin converting enzyme activity and reduces systolic blood pressure. Atherosclerosis. 2001 Sep;158(1):195-8.

13. Malik A, Afaq F, Sarfaraz S, Adhami VM, Syed DN, Mukhtar H. Pomegranate fruit juice for chemoprevention and chemotherapy of prostate cancer. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2005 Oct 11;102(41):14813-8.

14. Pantuck AJ, Leppert JT, Zomorodian N, et al. Phase II study of pomegranate juice for men with rising prostate-specific antigen following surgery or radiation for prostate cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2006 Jul 1;12(13):4018-26.

15. Kohno H, Suzuki R, Yasui Y, Hosokawa M, Miyashita K, Tanaka T. Pomegranate seed oil rich in conjugated linolenic acid suppresses chemically induced colon carcinogenesis in rats. Cancer Sci. 2004 Jun;95(6):481-6.

16. Adams LS, Seeram NP, Aggarwal BB, Takada Y, Sand D, Heber D. Pomegranate juice, total pomegranate ellagitannins, and punicalagin suppress inflammatory cell signaling in colon cancer cells. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Feb 8;54(3):980-5.

17. Seeram NP, Adams LS, Henning SM, et al. In vitro antiproliferative, apoptotic and antioxidant activities of punicalagin, ellagic acid and a total pomegranate tannin extract are enhanced in combination with other polyphenols as found in pomegranate juice. J Nutr Biochem. 2005 Jun;16(6):360-7.

18. Khan N, Hadi N, Afaq F, Syed DN, Kweon MH, Mukhtar H. Pomegranate fruit extract inhibits prosurvival pathways in human A549 lung carcinoma cells and tumor growth in athymic nude mice. Carcinogenesis. 2006 Aug 18; [Epub ahead of print].

19. Kim ND, Mehta R, Yu W, et al. Chemopreventive and adjuvant therapeutic potential of pomegranate (Punica granatum) for human breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2002 Feb;71(3):203-17.

20. Ashoori F, Suzuki S, Zhou JH, Isshiki N, Miyachi Y. Involvement of lipid peroxidation in necrosis of skin flaps and its suppression by ellagic acid. Plast Reconstr Surg. 1994 Dec;94(7):1027-37.

21. Afaq F, Saleem M, Krueger CG, Reed JD, Mukhtar H. Anthocyanin- and hydrolysable tannin-rich pomegranate fruit extract modulates MAPK and NF-kappa B pathways and inhibits skin tumorigenesis in CD-1 mice. Int J Cancer. 2005 Jan 20;113(3):423-33.

22. Hora JJ, Maydew ER, Lansky EP, Dwivedi C. Chemopreventive effects of pomegranate seed oil on skin tumor development in CD1 mice. J Med Food. 2003 Fall;6(3):157-61.

23. Schubert SY, Lansky EP, Neeman I. Antioxidant and eicosanoid enzyme inhibition properties of pomegranate seed oil and fermented juice flavonoids. J Ethnopharmacol. 1999 Jul;66(1):11-7.

24. Syed DN, Malik A, Hadi N, Sarfaraz S, Afaq F, Mukhtar H. Photochemopreventive effect of pomegranate fruit extract on UVA-mediated activation of cellular pathways in normal human epidermal keratinocytes. Photochem Photobiol. 2006 Mar-Apr;82(2):398-405.

25. Aslam MN, Lansky EP, Varani J. Pomegranate as a cosmeceutical source: Pomegranate fractions promote proliferation and procollagen synthesis and inhibit matrix metalloproteinase-1 production in human skin cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;103:311-8.

26. Murthy KN, Reddy VK, Veigas JM, Murthy UD. Study on wound healing activity of punica granatum peel. J Med Food. 2004 Summer;7(2):256-9.