Pomegranates are a powerful nutritional preventive for inflammation-related diseases

Pomegranates are widely known for their great nutritional profile and powerful antioxidant content. Researchers at the University of Huddersfield in England and the University of Freiburg in Germany believe that pomegranates’ naturally occurring antioxidants known as punicalagins can suppress a type of inflammation associated with dementia and related diseases. Punicalagins are particularly found in pomegranate’s juice and peel.

Chronic inflammation is the leading cause of many diseases, including dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe symptoms that affect memory, daily activity performance, and communication abilities. It occurs when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or a series of strokes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for about 50 to 70 percent of all dementia cases.

Earlier trials have reported that compounds in pomegranates can fight inflammation throughout the digestive tract and in cancer cells, such as breast cancer and colon cancer cells.

Published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, the study has shown that punicalagins can inhibit damaging neuroinflammation activated by brain’s microglia, which are central nervous system immune cells that contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers carried out a series of experiments in which they pretreated rat microglia exposed to the inflammation-inducing agent lipopolysaccharide (LPS) with different concentrations of punicalagin. The results showed that punicalagin dramatically inhibited the production of the inflammatory compounds tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6, and prostaglandin E2.

To be more particular, researchers found that punicalagin disrupts the signaling of nuclear factor-kappa beta (NF-kB), which is a protein that plays a role in inflammation, through various mechanisms.

“These results suggest that punicalagin inhibits neuroinflammation in LPS-activated microglia through interference with NF-kB signaling, suggesting its potential as a nutritional preventive strategy in neurodegenerative disorders,” Dr. Olumakyokun Olajide and colleagues conclude.

Based on the findings of their study, the researchers suggested that consuming pomegranates regularly can contribute to the prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia. They also suggested that punicalagin could be used as an agent in the treatment of brain inflammation and other types of inflammation, as well as in the prevention of dementia.

More on the brain-protective effects of pomegranate

Another study has shed more light on the ability of pomegranate to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The study authors, who were from the University of Rhode Island and Texas State University, revealed 21 compounds from pomegranate extract, most of which are plant-based molecules with antioxidant properties known as polyphenols and one compound called urolithins.

Urolithins are anti-inflammatory substances that are formed in the body when the bacteria in the gut break down the polyphenols from pomegranate extract. In the study, which was published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience, researchers discovered that these polyphenols failed to cross the blood-brain barrier, while urolithins successfully crossed the blood-brain barrier. This is important because a molecule has to cross the blood-brain barrier in order to prevent beta-amyloid plaques from forming, which is crucial to the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

When the researchers examined the effects of urolithins on roundworms with Alzheimer’s disease, they discovered that the roundworms that received the compound had a prolonged life expectancy.

Other ways to lower your risk of dementia

Researchers believe that you can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia by exercising regularly, socializing with others, adhering to a healthy diet, exercising your brain, getting enough sleep, and managing your stress levels. You can also reduce your risk by stopping smoking, controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, keeping a healthy weight, and drinking alcohol only in moderation. (Related: MIND diet, healthy fats and smoothies are crucial for preventing Alzheimer’s disease, research shows.)

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