Brand new research shows it may help you live an astounding 45 percent longer!
Pomegranates were once a storied fruit in ancient myth and legend, but they had become relatively obscure in modern times. That is, until the tremendous marketing hype began for grossly overpriced pomegranate beverages.
For years, the hype for pomegranate juice was far ahead of the science—which led to skepticism among smart consumers.
Of course, “natural-know-it-alls” never have to wait for the science. They just write whatever pops into their fevered minds that happens to sound good to them. And consumers who do not educate themselves about the science don’t always have the tools to tell the difference. So in years past, you may have read my warnings not to fall for the hype before the proverbial “verdict” on pomegranates was in.
But far be it from me to stand in the way when research does prove the benefits of natural substances. As it turns out, science on pomegranates is beginning to catch up. And the powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties of this fall fruit are now being clinically documented.
In fact, the latest science shows pomegranates may actually be able to slow down aging…
The sweet way to combat aging at the cellular level
Swiss scientists have found that a molecule in pomegranates is converted in the gastrointestinal tract to a potent compound called urolithin A.1
Urolithin A enables muscle cells to protect themselves against one of the major causes of cellular aging. And that can help expand lifespan a whopping 45%, according to this study.
Let’s take a closer look at the mechanics behind pomegranates and cellular aging.
How pomegranates can actually recharge exhausted cells
As I’ve noted before, the keys to cellular energy are the mitochondria, which convert glucose and oxygen to energy and water for each cell. In essence, mitochondria act like batteries for the cells. But like any battery, they can degrade and lose their function over time.
This degradation gradually affects the health of many tissues, including muscles, which become weaker over the years. In fact, buildup of degraded mitochondria is suspected to be a direct cause of certain diseases like Parkinson’s.
Some plants, such as aspal (red bush/rooibos), contain ingredients that have the ability to stoke the fires of functioning mitochondria to burn more calories and produce more energy and hydration for the cells. But what happens when the mitochondrial fireplaces simply “burn out” and don’t work well anymore?
The Swiss research found that urolithin A can re-establish the cells’ ability to rebuild these mitochondrial fireplaces by recycling the components of the degraded, defective mitochondria. It’s like taking the broken, burned-out bricks from an old fireplace and rebuilding them with new mortar.
In fact, urolithin A is the only known biomolecule that can launch this mitochondrial “clean-up” process. And its precursors are found not only in pomegranates, but also in some berries and nuts (more about that a little later).
The Swiss scientists initially started out testing these cellular effects in a type of worm that is often used in aging studies because it has a short lifespan. They discovered when urolithin A was given to these worms, they lived 45% longer than controls.
Next, the scientists moved onto mice. They found that urolithin A decreased the number of degraded mitochondria in muscle cells.
The result? The mice given urolithin A had a 42% increase in endurance while running, compared to the control mice.
Human clinical trials on urolithin A are now underway, and the scientists have high hopes they’ll get similar results. But there is an interesting twist…
Have scientists found the anti-aging molecule?
As I mentioned earlier, pomegranates and some berries and nuts contain a precursor molecule that is converted into urolithin A by probiotic bacteria in the GI tract. So the amount of urolithin A you can produce depends on how many of these particular probiotics your gut produces.
This can vary widely from person to person. In fact, the researchers discovered that some individuals don’t produce any urolithin A at all.
And here’s the really fascinating part: These differences may help explain the wide variations in biological vs. chronological age, and lifespan, that we observe among different people.
In fact, scientists think that developing a method to deliver finely calibrated doses of urolithin A may effectively treat age-related conditions like macular degeneration.
Meanwhile, many big pharma products intended to slow aging or to increase muscle performance continue to fail. I’ve often said that one reason why is because they don’t take into account the synergy between our bodies and our environments.
Case in point: urolithin A is thought to be the product of millions of years of parallel evolution among plants, probiotic bacteria, and animals.
Pomegranates may fight osteoarthritis
Another recent study that caught my eye is the first clinical trial investigating the effects of pomegranates in people with osteoarthritis.3
The impressive results? Significant improvements in joint stiffness and physical function in people’s knees were recorded after just six weeks of drinking pomegranate juice.
Researchers recruited 38 people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Half of them drank 200 ml (about 7 ounces) per day of pomegranate juice, and the other half didn’t receive any type of treatment. After six weeks, a test showed that knee osteoarthritis in the pomegranate group decreased by an average of 25%. Meanwhile, the non-treatment group’s osteoarthritis increased by 5%.
The researchers think pomegranate juice may help reduce osteoarthritis by inhibiting the enzymes that affect proteins known to play a role in the breakdown of joint cartilage.
Interestingly, this research was conducted in Iran. Since ancient times, pomegranates have been the subject of many legends in Iran (historically Persia).
Oddly, these kinds of studies don’t seem to get done in the U.S. despite the tens of billions of research funding dollars funneled through the NIH every year. But when it comes to pomegranates in Persia, I would trust the Iranian scientists.
Science is increasingly showing that pomegranates contain nutrients that are important for your health. But you don’t have to pay for the pushy, relentless, overpriced marketing and inflated profit margins that contribute to the high costs of retail pomegranate beverages.
Instead, you can find whole pomegranate fruits at your grocery store, especially this time of year. They keep well over time and can also add a decorative touch to your holiday season before being juiced or eaten.
Even more impressive health benefits from pomegranates
Middle Easterners have long known the importance of pomegranates for a healthy life. In fact, scholars report that the fruit was buried next to Egyptian pharaohs to help them transition into the afterlife (after hopefully delaying their transitions).
Pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants—particularly vitamin C. These antioxidants, along with pomegranate polyphenols, have been shown in several studies to help promote cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure and reducing atherosclerotic plaque.
Pomegranates also contain an anti-inflammatory polyphenol called punicalagin, which has been shown in an animal study to help reduce the beta-amyloid plaque that is thought to contribute to Alzheimer’s.4
If that weren’t enough, several studies show that drinking pomegranate juice may lower your risk of prostate and breast cancers.
1“Urolithin A induces mitophagy and prolongs lifespan in C. elegans and increases muscle function in rodents.” Nature Medicine, July 2016.
2 “Pomegranate finally reveals its powerful anti-aging secret,” ScienceDaily (www.sciencedaily.com), 7/11/16
3“The effect of pomegranate juice on clinical signs, matrix metalloproteinases and antioxidant status in patients with knee osteoarthritis.” J. Sci. Food Agric., 96: 4377–4381.
4“Punicalagin inhibits neuroinflammation in LPS-activated rat primary microglia.” Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 58: 1843–1851.