Pomegranates (Punica granatum) have been revered by cultures both ancient and modern, from the Mediterranean to India and China. They’re even mentioned in the Old Testament, being a featured decorative motif in the temple of King Solomon. Pomegranate trees were one of the first to be cultivated, dating back as far as 3,000 BC. Their popularity ensured their success, and soon they spread throughout the Middle East from their beginnings further north, probably near the Caucasus region along northern Turkey, Iraq, and Iran.
Although officially considered a berry, the large dark-red fruits of pomegranate are complex. Slice one open and you’ll see a host of smaller fleshy seeds called “arils” that are rich in pomegranate juice. They can be messy, but the fruits are worth it. They are delicious and provide high levels of vitamin C in addition to their already impressive levels of anthocyanins and catechins, the juice of pomegranates has been intensively studied for its affects on cancer, including reducing the risk of prostate cancer.
In a two-year clinical study, men with increased levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) consumed 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily while researchers monitored the rise or fall of PSA levels. By the end of the main phase of the study, PSA levels declined in 35 percent of the patients. Two percent of the patients (4 men out of a total of 46) showed a 50 percent decline in PSA levels. Plus, researchers noted a 12 percent decrease in cell proliferation and a 17 percent rise in cancer cell apoptosis.
So, there’s no doubt that pomegranate juice and especially fermented pomegranate juice has shown incredible benefits. However, pomegranate juice is very high in calories and sugar, and it may be tough for some people to consume enough juice in order for it to have truly therapeutic value. After all, everyone responds differently to any botanical or nutrient, as the studies themselves can show. Some people do incredibly well, and others don’t notice much of an effect.
Along those lines, juice alone may be leaving out some of the most important compounds in the plant; omega-5 fatty acid from seed oil. Pomegranate is one of the only known botanical sources of omega-5, also called punicic acid.
And while punicic acid from pomegranate hasn’t received as much attention as pomegranate fruit or juice, other research has found that omega-5 from pomegranate inhibits PSA and stops the growth of blood vessels that feed tumors. So, men who are concerned about prostate cancer may want to get the best of both worlds by choosing a supplement that includes omega-5 fatty acid, along with the benefits from the powerful compounds found in the fruit. With something as serious as prostate cancer in the balance, it is well worth it to get the best from this miracle from nature.
Purpose: Phytochemicals in plants may have cancer preventive benefits through antioxidation and via gene-nutrient interactions. We sought to determine the effects of pomegranate juice (a major source of antioxidants) consumption on prostate-specific antigen (PSA) progression in men with a rising PSA following primary therapy.
Experimental design: A phase II, Simon two-stage clinical trial for men with rising PSA after surgery or radiotherapy was conducted. Eligible patients had a detectable PSA > 0.2 and < 5 ng/mL and Gleason score < or = 7. Patients were treated with 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily (Wonderful variety, 570 mg total polyphenol gallic acid equivalents) until disease progression. Clinical end points included safety and effect on serum PSA, serum-induced proliferation and apoptosis of LNCaP cells, serum lipid peroxidation, and serum nitric oxide levels.
Results: The study was fully accrued after efficacy criteria were met. There were no serious adverse events reported and the treatment was well tolerated. Mean PSA doubling time significantly increased with treatment from a mean of 15 months at baseline to 54 months posttreatment (P < 0.001). In vitro assays comparing pretreatment and posttreatment patient serum on the growth of LNCaP showed a 12% decrease in cell proliferation and a 17% increase in apoptosis (P = 0.0048 and 0.0004, respectively), a 23% increase in serum nitric oxide (P = 0.0085), and significant (P < 0.02) reductions in oxidative state and sensitivity to oxidation of serum lipids after versus before pomegranate juice consumption.
Conclusions: We report the first clinical trial of pomegranate juice in patients with prostate cancer. The statistically significant prolongation of PSA doubling time, coupled with corresponding laboratory effects on prostate cancer in vitro cell proliferation and apoptosis as well as oxidative stress, warrant further testing in a placebo-controlled study.
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