Every year, more than one million Americans find themselves being admitted to the hospital on account of cardiovascular disease, the world’s number one killer.1 Whether it’s a heart attack or a stroke, clogged and diseased arteries are usually to blame.
Of course, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to heart disease drugs. You could be prescribed cholesterol-lowering statins that could, by the way, damage your liver or aspirin tablets that promise to reduce blood clots but may also increase your risks of gastrointestinal bleeding over time.2 3 Blood pressure medication like angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) will offer a temporary solution, but may also make you more susceptible to cancer.4 And then there’s surgery, that comes with its own set of risks.
What is one to do, when faced with such a dilemma? Eat pomegranates and drink pomegranate juice. As ludicrous as it may seem, it is actually true.
What Research Has To Say
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in the year 2000 proved that pomegranate juice can prevent the formation of fatty deposits within the walls of the arteries. Researchers linked this antiatherogenic property of pomegranate juice to its high antioxidant and polyphenol content. It is believed that these play an important role in reducing the occurrence of atherosclerotic lesions (where arteries lose their elasticity and become hard) and in decreasing oxidation of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.5
In 2004, Israeli scientists found that drinking pomegranate juice for one to three years showed a reversal in carotid artery stenosis (i.e. the narrowing of the arteries that bring blood to the head and neck region) by up to 30%. Additionally, this helped reduce the patients’ blood pressure as well. In contrast, the arteries of the patients in the control group who did not consume pomegranate juice displayed an increase in arterial blockage by nine percent.6
Yet another study conducted in 2013 involved giving pomegranate extract to mice with a genetic susceptibility towards spontaneous coronary artery blockages. After two weeks, the researched noted a significant decrease in the atherosclerotic features in the arteries of the mice. It was also concluded that pomegranate reduces oxidative stress and inflammation of the blood vessel walls, which in turn, brings down the formation of plaque.7
How Pomegranate Works To Unclog Arteries
The fact that something as benign and commonplace as a fruit extract has the power to reverse so many factors that contribute to blocked arteries (and consequently heart disease) can seem too good to be true. However, there’s a scientific explanation for each of the numerous ways pomegranate serves to benefit our arteries as well.
Based on the studies mentioned above, researchers identified three likely mechanisms of action that give pomegranate its observed anti-atherosclerotic properties:
- Cholesterol-lowering action: Researchers have found that oxidized LDL is a common factor that leads to atherosclerosis, a condition where the inside of an artery narrows due to the build of plaque. Pomegranates being high in antioxidants are very helpful in preventing LDL from being oxidized and hence serves to reverse blocked arteries and heal the damaged ones.8 Consequently, this also brings down a person’s cholesterol levels in the body, another factor that contributes to healthy arteries and a stronger heart.9
- Blood pressure lowering action: Oxidative stress can also lead to high blood pressure, another factor that increases the risk of arterial blockage. As established earlier, pomegranates are helpful in bringing down oxidative stress, and in this way, they are also very helpful in stabilizing our blood pressure levels.10
- Anti-inflammatory action: Studies show that inflammation plays a key role in coronary artery disease (where plaque buildup causes the coronary arteries to narrow, thereby limiting blood flow to the heart).11 The tannins in pomegranates are very helpful in fighting inflammation, which further helps reverse blocked arteries.12
How To Include Pomegranate In Your Diet
Now that we’ve established how pomegranate works as an artery-cleaning elixir, let’s talk about the ways you can incorporate this delicious fruit into your diet to preserve the health of your heart. You could:
- Toss in some pomegranate seeds into your salad for a sweet, crunchy twist
- Drink a glass of pomegranate juice in the morning with your breakfast
- Top off your morning bowl of oats with a handful of pomegranate seeds
- Add a generous splash of pomegranate juice to your smoothies or milkshakes
- Top your tub of yogurt with some pomegranate seeds for some added sweetness
- Drizzle some pomegranate juice as a marinade for your meats
|↑1||Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). World Health Organization.|
|↑2||Thapar, Manish, Mark W. Russo, and Herbert L. Bonkovsky. “Statins and liver injury.” Gastroenterology & hepatology 9, no. 9 (2013): 605.|
|↑3||Huang, Edward S., Lisa L. Strate, Wendy W. Ho, Salina S. Lee, and Andrew T. Chan. “Long-term use of aspirin and the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.” The American journal of medicine 124, no. 5 (2011): 426-433.|
|↑4||Sipahi, Ilke, Sara M. Debanne, Douglas Y. Rowland, Daniel I. Simon, and James C. Fang. “Angiotensin-receptor blockade and risk of cancer: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.” The lancet oncology 11, no. 7 (2010): 627-636.|
|↑5||Aviram, Michael, Leslie Dornfeld, Mira Rosenblat, Nina Volkova, Marielle Kaplan, Raymond Coleman, Tony Hayek, Dita Presser, and Bianca Fuhrman. “Pomegranate juice consumption reduces oxidative stress, atherogenic modifications to LDL, and platelet aggregation: studies in humans and in atherosclerotic apolipoprotein E–deficient mice.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 71, no. 5 (2000): 1062-1076.|
|↑6||Aviram, Michael, Mira Rosenblat, Diana Gaitini, Samy Nitecki, Aaron Hoffman, Leslie Dornfeld, Nina Volkova 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.” Clinical Nutrition 23, no. 3 (2004): 423-433.|
|↑7||Al-Jarallah, Aishah, Fatima Igdoura, Yi Zhang, Christine B. Tenedero, Elizabeth J. White, Melissa E. MacDonald, Suleiman A. Igdoura, and Bernardo L. Trigatti. “The effect of pomegranate extract on coronary artery atherosclerosis in SR-BI/APOE double knockout mice.” Atherosclerosis 228, no. 1 (2013): 80-89.|
|↑8, ↑10||Aviram, Michael, and Mira Rosenblat. “Pomegranate for your cardiovascular health.” Rambam Maimonides medical journal 4, no. 2 (2013).|
|↑9||Jacob, Robert F., and R. Preston Mason. “Lipid peroxidation induces cholesterol domain formation in model membranes.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 280, no. 47 (2005): 39380-39387.|
|↑11||Hansson, Göran K. “Inflammation, atherosclerosis, and coronary artery disease.” New England Journal of Medicine 352, no. 16 (2005): 1685-1695.|
|↑12||Sohrab, Golbon, Javad Nasrollahzadeh, Hamid Zand, Zohreh Amiri, Maryam Tohidi, and Masoud Kimiagar. “Effects of pomegranate juice consumption on inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial.” Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences 19, no. 3 (2014): 215.|