Study confirms the antitumor effects of pomegranates

Unhealthy lifestyle habits like eating unhealthy foods, physical inactivity, smoking, and drinking alcohol continue to contribute to the high incidence of cancer worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that cancer will account for more than 9.6 million deaths this year. Nearly 70 percent of cancer-related mortality cases happen in low- and middle-income countries since they have limited access to conventional cancer treatments, which tend to be very expensive. Moreover, conventional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation are often ineffective and can even contribute to the rise of resistant cancer cells that are hard to eliminate. Because of this, more and more researchers are now turning to nature for better remedies against cancer.

One of the natural products that have shown potential use as alternative treatments to cancer is the pomegranate (Punica granatum) fruit. Countless studies have looked into the anticancer potential of pomegranate. However, it wasn’t until recently that researchers from Brazil were able to observe pomegranate’s anticancer properties in an in vivo study. Their findings, which were published in the Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, included the potential systemic effects of pomegranate, which were not evaluated in previous in vitro studies.

Pomegranate fruit has long been used as a traditional remedy for health problems such as sore throats, coughs, urinary tract infections, digestive disorders, skin disorders, and arthritis. With the current advancements in science, researchers were able to identify the bioactive compounds in the fruit that are potentially involved in these applications. They found that pomegranates are rich in tannins like punicalagin, punicalin, gallic acid, ellagic acid, and ellagic acid derivatives. Existing publications also attribute the healing, antimicrobial, chemopreventive, and antitumor effects of pomegranates to these compounds.

In this study, the researchers improved upon previous studies assessing the anticancer properties of pomegranates by conducting an in vivo study involving male Swiss mice that were transplanted with sarcoma tumor cells. The mice were treated with either aqueous pomegranate extracts or 5-fluorouracil, which is a conventional cancer treatment. After eight days, the researchers observed that both treatments significantly increased the number of apoptotic cancer cells. This indicates that pomegranates work against cancer by inducing programmed cell death, which will then signal immune cells to eliminate them without triggering an inflammatory response.

Aside from being effective, cancer treatments should also be safe for healthy cells in the body. To determine if the treatments used in the study have unwanted toxic effects, the researchers conducted hematological, biochemical, histopathological, and morphological analyses of the tumor and organs. They found that mice treated with 5-fluorouracil suffered from a loss in body weight, spleen atrophy, and a reduced number of white blood cells, which indicate toxic effects. On the contrary, pomegranate-treated mice did not exhibit any signs of toxicity, proving that it is safe for use.

Overall, this study proves that pomegranate extracts are effective against cancer and are much safer than conventional treatments. (Related: Pomegranates are some of the best foods you can eat to prevent cancer.)

Other health benefits of pomegranates

If you’re still not convinced that you should eat pomegranates, here are some other health benefits that you can enjoy from eating this superfood.

  • Improving heart health — Pomegranates enhance blood flow throughout the body by reducing inflammation of blood vessels and preventing the formation of cholesterol blocks that can hinder the passage of blood.
  • Boosting immune functions — The antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of pomegranates work great against pathogens that attack your immune system. Studies have shown that among all fruits with antimicrobial properties, pomegranates are the best in preventing HIV transmission.
  • Promoting wound healing — The different nutrients found in pomegranates encourage the regeneration of cells involved in wounds to speed up the healing process. Moreover, it is also effective in protecting the skin from damage caused by sun exposure.

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