Pomegranate juice could be the key to lowering bad cholesterol levels

In the U.S., fall is also the time for pomegranates. While it’s known for its delicious “seeds” (which are technically called arils), it’s mostly known for being labor-intensive as the cracking open a pomegranate requires both patience and skill. Still, that shouldn’t be a reason to stop you from getting those delicious seeds, as German researchers have found that a compound in pomegranate juice can reduce the effects brought about by bad cholesterol. In their study, which appeared in Cyta – Journal of Food, the team from Friedrich-Alexander University looked at the whether pomegranate seeds, as well as olive oil and vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), could prevent copper-induced LDL (low-density lipoprotein) oxidation.

LDL oxidation is a harmful process that occurs when free radicals damage normal LDL cholesterol. Once this happens, it triggers a chain of inflammatory responses, which can ultimately lead to atherosclerosis, a condition marked by plaque buildup. Once this happens, blood flow in the affected area is greatly decreased, which can increase the chances of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attacks. In general, a person can produce high levels of oxidized LDL when he has increased levels of free radicals or LDL cholesterol. Certain lifestyle choices, conditions, or food items can increase the risk of LDL oxidation, including:

  • Eating foods that are high in trans fats
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Metabolic syndrome, often a precursor of diabetes
  • Exposure to toxins

If LDL becomes oxidized, it often stays in the inner lining of the arteries, in particular, the carotid and coronary arteries, as well as the peripheral arteries that supply blood to the legs and arms.

In the study, the team focused on pomegranate extracts, especially their antioxidant properties. Multiple fractions were isolated from the extract, and these were tested against a copper-induced LDL oxidation model. Of all the isolated fractions, the polyphenol fraction derived from fermented juice exhibited a dose-dependent effect and slowed down the effects of LDL oxidation. However, no synergistic effects were noted between the fraction and other isolates.

“In conclusion, our results showed a potent antioxidant effect of pomegranate [polyphenol] fraction on copper-induced LDL oxidation in vitro,” the researchers concluded in their report.

The team also suggested using the extract as a natural food preservative for meat and fatty food, given its ability to reduce the oxidative process. (Related: A healthier macaroni: Using pomegranate peel flour makes the dish more nutritious.)

Other health benefits of pomegranates

The ruby red seeds of pomegranates don’t just help improve cholesterol levels, it can also boost cognitive function and even prevent against other chronic diseases. Here are just some of the other benefits that a person can get from eating pomegranates.

  • It has anti-cancer properties. The fruit is known to be an anti-inflammatory agent, which protects against cancer and other chronic diseases. In addition, pomegranates also prevent tumors from getting new blood vessels — which is a key factor in their spread and growth.
  • It protects against heart disease. The phytochemicals in pomegranates can reduce blood pressure and plaque buildup.
  • It guards memory. A study has shown that patients who took a pomegranate supplement before and after surgery were protected from post-operative memory impairment.
  • It improves cognitive health. Drinking pomegranate juice daily increased brain activation, based on the results of a memory task study.

Learn more about the benefits of pomegranates at Food.news.

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