Food as Medicine - Pomegranates - Prostate Cancer - Part 2

Following on from Monday's blog post about pomegranates, today we will look at the effects of pomegranates on prostate cancer.  It's exciting stuff, especially as the last 5 years have seen a great increase in research showing how pomegranates can fight the disease.


Initial animal studies in Germany and the US showed that pomegranate extracts can stop prostate cancer cells from growing and then killed the cells, and also prevented prostate cancer from growing and spreading.

Following on from this, researchers in UCLA gave 8 oz of pomegranate juice a day to men with prostate cancer who had been treated with either radiation or surgery, but still had rising PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels - a biomarker of tumor growth. The study lasted 2 years.

Before treatment, the average PSA doubling time was 15 months.  (Doubling time is how long it takes to for say a PSA of 2 to get to a PSA of 4).  After treatment, the doubling time was 54 months - considerably slower.  85% of patients given the juice responded.

Other tests showed a 12% decrease in growth of cancer cells, a 17% increase in death of cancer cells.

The results suggest that drinking pomegranate juice may be a non-toxic option in slowing prostate carcinogenesis and preventing it.  However, these studies are only preliminary and not large scale (upto Phase II).  We'll have to wait for further studies to see if drinking pomegranate juice alters the course of prostate cancer overall so that men live longer or better.  Phase III trials are currently in progress and some are recruiting.


Further studies are now also being conducted looking at the effect of pomegranate on other types of cancer, including breast, colon, lung, skin, leukemia and more.

References:

Pomegranate Ellagitanins, Heber D. In Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 2nd Edition 2011.  

Specific pomegranate juice components as potential inhibitors of prostate cancer metastasis. Wang L. Ho J, Glackin C, Martins-Green M. Transl Oncol. 2012; 5(5): 344-55


For further references, check PubMed - searching for pomegranate and prostate cancer or pomegranate and cancer
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Food as medicine - Pomegranates - Part 1

Pomegranates are still in season but they are coming to an end.  Buy them while you can, as they are such a wonderful health food.

Their many benefits are too extensive for one blog post, so I'll cover them in a few.


The whole plant seems to practically burst with disease-fighting antioxidants called polyphenols - from the seed, pulp, skin, root, flower and even the bark of the tree.  In fact, pomegranate seed extracts and juice have two to three times the anti-oxidant activity of red wine and green tea.

And while lots of foods have high levels of polyphenols, what makes pomegranates such superstars is that they are a top source of several varieties of polyphenols, namely flavenoids, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, punicic acid and many others.  Hundreds of scientific studies confirm these polyphenols can prevent and treat a variety of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and stroke.  This ties in to the pomegranate being known as "a pharmacy unto itself" in Ayurvedic medicine.


There are several ways to get your pomegranate!

  • You can find fresh whole pomegranates from October - February, and use the seeds - arils
  • You can purchase the seeds frozen throughout the year
  • You can drink pomegranate juice 
  • You can buy dried seeds which are called ANARDANA - they can be used dried or soaked in water before use to plump them up
  • You can buy  pomegranate "spice" which is ground up dried seeds, again called ground anardana
  • You can buy pomegranate molasses

Anardana is used a lot in India - both whole and ground in curries, chutneys and as fillings for savory snacks such as pakoras and in flatbreads like parathas.


Pomegranate molasses is popular in the Middle East.  It is made by crushing the seeds into juice and cooking it until it reaches an almost black, thick molasses-like texture.  The molasses have a berry like taste with a citrus tang.  I discovered pomegranate molasses about 9 years ago and love it. If you haven't tried it before, make this your new food of the week. I frequently use it to make a salad dressing, or drizzle it on a savory or sweet dish. I also use it instead of sugar in baking - but it is thick so you have to chose recipes carefully!

Walnut and pomegranate roulade drizzled with pomegranate molasses
(sugar free, gluten free, no added oil)

I sprinkle pomegranate seeds on my oat muesli every morning....in fact, I'm getting worried about my supply running dry as its now February and the season is coming to a close. I guess I'll be using frozen pomegranate seeds instead.

A couple of quick snippets:
DENTAL 

  • researchers found that rinsing the mouth with pomegranate extract reduced bacteria-causing dental plaque 84% MORE than commercial mouthwash
  • researchers in Thailand treated gum disease (periodontal disease) with pomegranate extract and found it decreased gum erosion and plaque
  • a pomegranate formula was found to clear up denture stomatitis, a fungal infection in people wearing dentures.


I'll tell you about other specific health benefits in the next few posts, including pomegranates effects on

  • atheroschlerosis, 
  • diabetes 
  • prostate cancer
  • aging
In the meantime, try to think of ways you can add pomegranate to your diet EVERY day.....on cereal/oatmeal for breakfast, sprinkled on a salad for lunch, drizzled on a whole grain meal for dinner ...

What is your favorite pomegranate dish?

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