• Jen Scheinman

Are pomegranates the secret to longevity?

The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is an old testament tale that most of us are familiar with. However, scholars believe that it may have been a pomegranate rather than an apple, which was the forbidden fruit that enticed Adam. Filled with beautiful ruby seeds, it’s easy to see how the pomegranate could be the fruit of temptation.


While the gem-colored fruit may have been humanity's downfall during biblical times, in the modern-day, it offers many benefits to human health and may even help to promote longevity.


The health benefits of pomegranates


Besides being delicious, pomegranates offer many health benefits. This is partly due to the abundance of antioxidants found in the fruit. Pomegranate juice has three times as much antioxidant activity as red wine and green tea, making it a powerful anti-inflammatory food. In fact, research shows that drinking one cup of pomegranate juice a day could lower inflammatory markers in people with diabetes.


Studies also show that pomegranates may help inhibit cancer growth, prevent cardiovascular disease, improve arthritis symptoms and joint pain, slow down skin aging, and possess antimicrobial properties.


While this certainly provides a compelling reason to include pomegranates in your diet, new longevity research sheds even more light on their unique health benefits.


How pomegranates promote longevity


Pomegranates are rich in polyphenols, bioactive plant compounds that support human health.


Now bear with me as I get a little technical, but it’s important to understand the chemical players in longevity research.


Ellagitannins (ETs) and ellagic acid (EA) are two polyphenols found in pomegranates that play a unique role in the aging process. The gut microbiome converts ET and EA into a compound called urolithin A (UA).


Urolithin A is an exciting compound that is now being studied for its role in inhibiting the aging process at a cellular level. It appears that UA supports the health of our mitochondria via a process called mitophagy. Mitochondria are components in our cells responsible for energy metabolism and are important in cellular aging. Mitophagy is the process where damaged mitochondria are recycled and replaced by more efficient, healthier mitochondria. Since UA can upregulate mitophagy, it just may play a key role in how we age.


Research using UA supplementation is ongoing, looking at how it may improve skeletal muscle strength (a key marker of aging), help with cardiovascular disease, improve symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, and even increase our lifespan.


All of this from a mighty pomegranate!


It should be noted, though, that not everyone can convert ET and EA effectively into UA, likely due to individuality in each of our microbiome. Urolithin A supplements offer a way to bypass the gut's role in creating this compound; however, I always recommend a food-first approach to get all the nourishment that pomegranates have to offer.


I suspect more research on the benefits of urolithin A will be forthcoming in the near future, but in the meantime, consider picking up some pomegranates the next time you’re food shopping.



References

1. Gil MI, Tomás-Barberán FA, Hess-Pierce B, Holcroft DM, Kader AA. Antioxidant activity of pomegranate juice and its relationship with phenolic composition and processing. J Agric Food Chem. 2000;48(10):4581-4589. doi:10.1021/jf000404a

2. Sohrab G, Nasrollahzadeh J, Zand H, Amiri Z, Tohidi M, Kimiagar M. Effects of pomegranate juice consumption on inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Res Med Sci. 2014;19(3):215-220.

3. Zarfeshany A, Asgary S, Javanmard SH. Potent health effects of pomegranate. Adv Biomed Res. 2014;3:100. doi:10.4103/2277-9175.129371

4. D’Amico D, Andreux PA, Valdés P, Singh A, Rinsch C, Auwerx J. Impact of the Natural Compound Urolithin A on Health, Disease, and Aging. Trends in Molecular Medicine. 2021;27(7):687-699. doi:10.1016/j.molmed.2021.04.009

5. Singh A, D’Amico D, Andreux PA, et al. Direct supplementation with Urolithin A overcomes limitations of dietary exposure and gut microbiome variability in healthy adults to achieve consistent levels across the population. Eur J Clin Nutr. Published online June 11, 2021:1-12. doi:10.1038/s41430-021-00950-1


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