The fruit of pomegranate has been known since antiquity, when it was considered a symbol of both fertility and abundance, immortality and sanctity. He was worshiped in many religions around the world. In folk medicine, it was used primarily to fight parasites. He was also supposed to help with aphthae, ulcers, diarrhea or febrile states. It was often used as a means to fight haemorrhage, dysentery, acidosis and microbial infections. In fact, all parts of the plant were used in Ayurveda – not only the fruit itself, but also the bark, flowers, leaves and even roots.
What is the pomegranate and where does it come from?
The family pomatia (Latin Punicaceae) and the order Myrtales (Latin Myrtales) belong only two species of flora. These are low trees, from 3 to a maximum of 7 meters, or shrubs whose leaves are opposite and single, prickly branches, and bisexual flowers of a strongly intense red color 2. The fruits of these plants resemble our native apples.
The most well-known species from the aforementioned pair is pomegranate (Latin Punica granatum), also known as the bush or tree of pomegranate or proper pomegranate. It probably comes from Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia . Currently, its cultivation covers the Mediterranean, India, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, and it can easily be found even in China, Japan, Russia and the United States, mainly in California and on Arizona areas.
Depending on the place where it grows, it can have different sizes, maturation time, juice volume and dose of other ingredients. It grows easily on barren soil, although the best ones are fertile, clayey and humus-rich . It tolerates a wide temperature range. He is not afraid of frosts, including those reaching even minus 15 degrees Celsius.
Pomegranate fruit only after four years. Fruits reach full maturity in late autumn and can weigh even about a kilogram. From this amount you can get about 500 to 750 g of juice. One tree or shrub can spend up to 50 kg of pomegranate at a time. It is a product that gets to know thanks to the purple, later dark blue skin with irregular cracks. Inside it, there are up to 1000 to 1,300 granular seeds in the chambers 2. The second not significant in economic terms is Punica protopunica, which can be found only on the island of Socotra belonging to South Yemen 2.
Nutritional values of pomegranate
Three independent research staffs worked on determining the nutritional value of the pomegranate from 2010. The final chemical composition of the fruit is influenced by many factors, including, first of all, the variety, climate, growing conditions, the maturity of the harvested crop and the manner in which it is stored.
It was finally determined that the product in question is characterized by low calorific value ranging between 65 kcal and up to about 78 kcal in 100 g raw material. Among the macronutrients, carbohydrates boast the most. There are from 1.5 g to 18.7 g in 100 g, while the protein content does not exceed even 2 g, and lipids oscillate in the value of about 1 g. The pomegranate also contains quite a large amount of fiber, in 100 g it is from g up to 5 g. The fruit described is also a great treasure trove of many micronutrients. The most important are vitamin C, E, pantothenic acid, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus .
Half the weight of a pomegranate is his skin. Interestingly, it is practically the most important part of this product, because it is where we find bioactive components that are extremely important for human health, such as phenolic compounds, among them flavonols, elagotannins and proanthocyanidins. In turn, the edible part of this raw material is made up of 0% of the weight of fruit and seeds, whose weight fraction does not exceed 10%.
Regarding the chemical composition of the main part of the grenade, which is possible to consume, in fact 85% of its content is water. The rest is made up of fructose, glucose and pectin. The most important ingredient in terms of health are organic acids, including ascorbic, lemon and apple, as well as flavonoids and anthocyanins. Seeds are mainly a rich source of lipids, largely those from the polyunsaturated family, such as linoleic and linolenic acid. Other fats that build popular pomegranate seeds include stearic, punic, oleic and palmitic acids. Pomegranate oil accounts for almost 20% of the weight of seeds. The other components of their mass are protein, sugars, dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, polyphenols, and mainly of genistein belonging to isoflavones .
Both the juice of the described product and the fruit itself are the source of many bioactive compounds. According to the results of the research by Apkinar-Bayizit from 2012 and Lansky and Newmann from 2007, nectar contains anthocyanins, ellagic, gallic, caffeine, epigallocatechin gallate, quercetin, rutin, citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, fumaric acid, amber acid , chlorogenic, p-coumaric acid, quinoline, catechins, epicatechin, glucoside, cyanidin, pelargonidin and delphinidin.
In turn, based on the results of Wang’s 2010 and Yasuja experience from 2012, pomegranate fruit and seeds have in their composition catechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin gallate, flavan-3-ole, kaempferol, luteolin, naringin, pelargonidine, prodelphinidine, quercetin, rutin, hydroxybenzoic acid, ellagic, caffeic, chlorogenic, p-coumaric acid, quinic acid, punikalagine, corilagin, pedagulagin, telimagrandin, delphinidin, epigallocatechin, kaempferol 3-O-glucoside and kaempferol 3-O-rhamnoglucoside. All these ingredients make it despite the inconspicuous appearance of this product in an amazing way that supports human health .
The effect of pomegranate on health
Thanks to the richness of vitamins, minerals and bioactive compounds, pomegranate has an extremely positive and diverse effect on the human body and its functioning. This product is known for its numerous health properties, thanks to which it works both prophylactically and therapeutically. The most important and most popular health properties include antioxidant, cardioprotective, hypoglycemic, anti-cancer and support the development and growth of beneficial microorganisms .
The antioxidant potential of this fruit has been the subject of many scientists’ research for many years. However, it was discovered that not every grenade has the same antioxidant effect, because it depends on its variety, degree of maturity, climatic conditions in which it grew and a specific component of the plant, which was taken into account in the given experiment.
In 2002, during one of the experiments, it was discovered that the pomegranate skin extract is characterized by a greater antioxidant capacity than the solution prepared from its seeds. This study used the ability of substances contained in the described plant to quench the action of a specific product resulting from oxidative stress known as DDPH. Its full name is the 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl radical. After 5 years, in another experiment, it was observed that the food product created from crushed fruits has 20 times more antioxidant capacity than the apple-juice.
One of the most interesting studies was carried out in 2000. Four methods of checking antioxidative capabilities such as ABTS, DPPH, DMPD and FRAP were taken into account in it. The obtained results confirmed up to 3 times higher antioxidant capacity of juice from the described fruit compared to red wine and green tea.
In turn, the experience conducted by Sudheesh and Vijayalakshmi on a group of laboratory rats administered isolated pomegranate flavonoids showed that these animals were characterized by a smaller amount of compounds that are biomarkers in assessing the changes associated with the oxidation of lipids, such as hydroperoxides and malondialdehyde, in the liver , heart and rodent kidneys. In addition, it was observed that among the individuals that were used in the experiment increased the activity of antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, peroxidase and glutathione reductase in the above-mentioned organs.
In the case of a study conducted with the participation of humans, it was unequivocally proved that giving the volunteers an extract of the described fruit in the form of capsules led to a greater antioxidant capacity of plasma by as much as 31.8% after only 30 minutes from taking the preparation .
Tannins and anthocyanins, which are rich in pomegranate fruit, also have antiatherosclerotic properties. Experiences on this subject were conducted both on animals and with the participation of people. The results of the research most often underlined the role of the juice of the described product and its unambiguous effect on the drop in systolic pressure. In one experiment conducted on wistar rats, which were characterized by high blood pressure induced by subcutaneous administration of the protein hormone, angotensin II, the animals received 100 mg of pomegranate juice per kilogram of body weight for weeks. As a result of this action, a drop in blood pressure in rodents was observed.
In another study, the results clearly indicated that the administration of nectar for one year to people with atherosclerosis in whom carotid artery stenosis occurred resulted in a 30% reduction in intima and middle thickness of the above-mentioned site with an 83% increase in enzyme activity that inhibits the oxidation of LDL cholesterol molecules, i.e. paraoxonase-1 abbreviated as PON-1 (called Serum paraoxonase / arylesterase 1).
An interesting experiment aimed at confirming the anti-atherosclerotic action of the juice of the described fruit consisted in consuming for weeks by a group of patients 800 mg of oil from the seed of the product. In these patients a statistically significant decrease in the amount of triglycerides and a decrease in the ratio of the mentioned lipid molecules to the so-called good HDL cholesterol. The results of this experiment coincide with the study conducted by Esmaillzadeh, which was to test the effect of drinking concentrated pomegranate nectar on the lipid profile of patients with type 2 diabetes and hyperlipidemia. In these subjects, a reduction in the amount of total cholesterol, LDL and a decrease in the ratio of these substances to HDL was observed.
In addition, other experiments have shown that using both the extract of the described fruit and the juice itself leads to a large reduction in the expression of vasculitis markers such as thrombospondin, TSP (thrombospondin), and transforming beta-growth factor, i.e. TGF-β (ang. transforming growth factor β), with the simultaneous increase in nitric oxide in blood plasma .
Many scientists over the years also conducted observations to prove or exclude the effect of pomegranate on the decrease in glucose. Thus, the experiment on wistar rats allowed to note that the administration of an aqueous extract from the skin of the described fruit in the amount of 200 mg per kilogram of body mass leads in rodents to the reduction of sugar in the plasma. In a very similar experiment, where the same animals with diagnosed diabetes were given a rich polyphenol-rich solution for 10 days, it was found that it led to a decrease in fasting glucose and at the same time caused an increase in insulin concentration.
In a further study in rats with glycemic disturbances induced by streptozotocin, rodent consumption of pomegranate seeds of 300 and 600 mg per kilogram body weight resulted in a reduction in blood sugar by 7% and 52 in just 12 hours. %. However, in an experiment in mice, which was supplemented with oil from the described plant rich in linolenic acid, this effect positively influenced the sensitivity of tissues to insulin, thanks to which the risk of developing full-type type 2 diabetes mellitus decreased in these animals.
Another experiment in which the same rodent species were used consisted of feeding them with a pomegranate solution. This led to a decrease in serum resistin, a substance that is involved in the development of insulin resistance.
Human studies have only partially produced positive results. In one of them, it was proved that drinking juice from the described fruit by patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes results in a reduction in the amount of fasting glucose while reducing insulin resistance. In the next, however, where sick people consumed 50 ml of drink a day for months, neither the improvement of fasting glycemia nor the greater sensitivity of tissues to the pancreatic β-cell hormone occurred. The glycosylated hemoglobin A1c of patients did not change either.
Many scientists also began to wonder whether this wonderful fruit, containing so many bioactive compounds, may also have its share in inhibiting the development and prevention of cancer. The results of the experiments confirm that in the case of prostate cancer, both the described seed oil and juice prevent further development of the disease. In addition, it was observed that whole fruit extracts had better antitumor activity than solutions from particular parts of the pomegranate. In turn, research on breast cancer shows that the substances contained in the plant are responsible for stopping the angiogenesis, invasiveness and enlargement of cancer cells, which simultaneously leads to their self-destruction.
In other colon disease experiments, it was observed that patients after nectar in the colon release elagotanine and urolithin, ie components responsible for reducing the risk of cancer of a given organ by inhibiting the development of cancer cells and bringing them to apoptosis. In addition, in the data part you can find information that the grenade also works in the prevention and treatment of leukemia and liver diseases on the background of cancer .
Most of the experiments regarding the properties of the described fruit concerned its role in stopping the development of microorganisms. Probably the antibacterial abilities of this product are associated with anthocyanins in their composition, which are also responsible for the antioxidant capabilities of the pomegranate. The data collected on the basis of numerous studies indicate that the fruit mentioned above has a severe destructive effect on Staphylococcus aureus, or Staphylococcus aureus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, also known as the pseudomonas, as a result of punikalagin, which is found in the skin of the product. It was also observed that solutions from this part of the fruit negatively affect the growth of other bacteria, such as Proteus vulgaris, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Bacillus subtilis, Salmonella typhi, Listeria monocytogenes or Yersinia enterocolitica.
Other experiments also confirmed that the product extracts also inhibit the development of periodontal pathogenic microorganisms. Interestingly, pomegranate solutions that destroy strains hazardous to health, at the same time support the growth and development of probiotic bacteria inhabiting, for example, intestinal walls in humans, mainly from the family of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium .
Where was the pomegranate fruit used?
Due to its numerous properties and rich chemical composition, the pomegranate fruit has been used in various industries. The best documented is its use by the food, leather and cosmetics industry.
As far as the first of the above-mentioned products is concerned, the product is primarily used to create juices, wine, jams, preserves, jellies, dried seeds, as well as syrups and liqueurs. . Of the punch and alcohol produced from this fruit, the Caucasus regions are particularly well known 2 .
Although not the grenade itself, but the leaves and bark of the trunks and roots of the tree on which it grows, thanks to the high content of tannins are used for the production of safian, or delicate skin, which is used to create exclusive shoes or women’s handbags. It is also often used to cover furniture and even create a unique setting for books. Interestingly, thanks to the colors obtained from fruit cover, eastern carpets are so enchanting. These dyes also produce ink for body dyeing. Intensive shades extracted from the flowers of this plant are also used to make the fabrics of linen, cotton, silk and wool 2 more attractive.
When it comes to the cosmetics industry, it is an industry that is constantly developing and, according to the expectations of consumers, creates more and more exclusive products based on natural substances. 1. The skin and pomegranate due to their anti-inflammatory effect and preventing discoloration in the human skin are an increasingly frequent component of numerous skin care products. The research conducted on hairless guinea pigs, which were administered with the extract of the mentioned ingredients, and at the same time irradiated with UV rays, showed that the compounds contained in the product also reduce pigmentation.
Another experience, in turn, confirmed that pomegranate polyphenols counteract the aging of the skin caused by UVB radiation. It has also been proven that they inhibit the activity of peroxidase in the connective tissue, which makes them antioxidant. 5. Importantly, they are also used to prolong the durability of cosmetics, especially creams, shampoos and lotions. In turn, extracts from tanning agents are used in sunscreen, antiacne preparations and foot cosmetics 1 due to their astringent effect.
Interestingly, the oil from the seeds of the described fruit also found its place in the cosmetics industry. Thanks to the fact that it contains significant amounts of punic acid from the omega-5 family, it destroys the free radicals to a large extent. In addition, it has a soothing and renewing effect. An important component of this liquid fat are also polyunsaturated lipids, often called vitamin F. They are mainly linolenic acid in an amount of 0.2%, oleic acid in a concentration of 7.7% and linoleic in a dose of 9.8%. They affect the faster regeneration of the skin, as well as its good nourishment, moisturizing and refreshing 5. That is why they found themselves in preparations for the treatment of sunburn and wounds. They are also used in the presence of rosacea. In turn, mature skin has a rejuvenating and anti-wrinkle effect 1.
Contraindications, that is, the grenade is good for everyone
Unfortunately, despite its great properties, the grenade can not be used with impunity and any time of the day by people who take drugs permanently because it significantly affects their metabolism. The importance of consuming juices based on the described fruit is particularly emphasized here. Observations from numerous studies show that beverages from tropical products in various ways inhibit the action of cytochrome P50, which in the liver takes part in the direct detoxification and processing of drugs taken.
Among the nectars from such ingredients as papaya, kiwi, mango, passion fruit, pitai, white grapefruit, orange, carambola and rambutan, the strongest inhibitory effect on the aforementioned substances showed, among others, grenade 3. Inhibition of cytochrome P50 function strengthens the action of the taken medicinal preparations, especially those containing statins, which are found even in tablets for cholesterol 7. Other contraindications for the consumption of beverages or fruit in the unprocessed form include hyperacidity, peptic ulceration or gastritis 6.
Should a pomegranate really be part of a well-balanced diet?
Both pomegranate and juice produced from this fruit are currently not very popular products in the daily diet of the average Pole. This is probably due to the low awareness of how good both preventive and curative properties bring about the regular consumption of this plant. In addition, it is a great support in the treatment of both people with already diagnosed cancer, as well as those who are in an increased risk group.
Pomegranate can also be successfully used in patients with impaired glycemia or bad lipid profile – however, it must be stressed that eating this fruit will not replace conventional therapy.
Especially for hours of consumption of this product should be considered by people with chronic diseases, which force them to daily consuming drugs. In order to prevent the interaction between pomegranate or its juice and adopted tablets, especially those containing statins, a minimum of 2 hours should be allowed between the pharmaceutical and the food containing the product described.