Pomegranate juice is remarkably rich in antioxidants, such as soluble polyphenols, tannins, and anthocyanins, which scavenge free radicals and help prevent DNA damage that can lead to a number of serious health conditions.
It is also believed to have antiatherosclerotic properties, as studies in Israel have shown that the fruit juice, taken daily, prevented the thickening of arteries and slowed down cholesterol oxidation by almost half (Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun;23(3):423-33).
POM Wonderful, which supplied juice for the new study, draws attention to the antiatherosclerotic properties of pomegranate juice on its website.
And it seems consumers are keen to partake of the benefits: In the UK pomegranates are hardly sold in their fruit form but RJA Foods, which sells the Pomegreat brand, reports that sales have grown over the last year from around 50,000 liters per month to 500,000 liters per month.
Notwithstanding the earlier research, researchers from the University of California's non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute and California Pacific Medical Center claim theirs new study, published in the published in the September 16 issue of the Journal of Cardiology, is the first to assess its effect on patients with ischemic coronary heart disease (CHD).
They randomly divided 45 participants, all of whom had CHD and myocardial ischemia, into two groups. One group received 250ml (8.5 oz) pomegranate juice each day for three months, and the other received the same amount of a placebo drink with a similar calorific content, flavor and color.
Their findings showed that blood flow to the heart improved by about 17 percent in the pomegranate group and declined by 18 percent in the placebo group. The researchers noted that this benefit was realized without and negative effects on lipids, blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, body weight or blood pressure.
"In conclusion, daily consumption of pomegranate juice may improve stress-induced myocardial ischemia in patients who have CHD," they wrote.
Senior author Dean Ornish said: "Although the sample in this study was relatively small, the strength of the design and the significant improvements in blood flow to the heart observed after only three months suggest that pomegranate juice may have important clinical benefits in those with coronary heart disease."
He added that it may even be able to help prevent CHD in people who do not already suffer from it.
Researchers at Hammersmith Hospital in London, UK, are currently involved in research to find out whether pomegranate juice could be an effective prevention measure against heart disease in people with healthy arteries.
CHD is the biggest cause of death in many Western countries. In the United States, an estimated 13 million individuals suffer from the condition.
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