Recent research has found that regular consumption of pomegranate extract reduces the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as well as some of its blood markers.
Probing the potential power of POMx?
Pomegranate juice has long been known for its nutritional benefits and as a potent anti-oxidant. With anti-oxidants accepted as a powerful tool for reducing joint swelling and associated pain in RA patients, researchers have focused on elucidating the mechanisms underlying these observations.
A collaboration between scientists based at universities in Iran, has overseen one of the first clinical trials investigating the pomegranate extract POMx. Fifty-five participants, aged over forty and meeting the American College of Rheumatology classification criteria for RA completed the trial, were randomly assigned to double-blind study groups.
The subjects received two capsules a day of either POMx or a placebo, with instructions not to change their activity or medication. Blood samples for laboratory investigations were taken at the outset, as well ason completion of the eight-week study, to assess the effect of the extract on chemicals in the blood associated with the disease. Comprehensive clinical and dietary assessments were made on the same schedule to assess clinical outcomes, and to control for lifestyle differences between the groups.
A health supplement with benefits
The study showed that the consumption of POMx was responsible for a statistically significant reduction in the number of swollen and tender joints, as well as a reduction in ratings of pain intensity. Patients receiving POMx also reported a reduction in the duration of morning stiffness, and showed an improved score on their health assessment.
Blood markers were affected too, with a reduced erythrocyte sedimentation rate (a non-specific measure of inflammation), and elevation of an enzyme responsible for protecting against oxidative damage. However, there was no statistically significant difference in the other markers investigated by the team, which included standard measures of arthritis, inflammation and oxidative stress.
The authors note that the presence of reactive oxygen species, as well as excessive production of inflammatory mediators, plays a vital role in the onset and progression of RA. They propose that POMx may be acting by both removing reactive oxygen species through its own antioxidant properties, as well as by strengthening natural defence systems. Another possible mechanism identified by the researchers is the effect of POMx on gut bacteria, as gut flora has been previously identified as playing a role in inflammatory diseases.
Pomegranate cultivation and sales are not likely to be immediately affected, as the researchers have called for further trials with larger cohorts and a broader range of investigations to address the significant limitations of this study.
Credit: Barnabas Leeke