Do Pomegranates Have a Role in Type 2 Diabetes?


2014-06-09 07:50

Several studies suggest pomegranates may be helpful in the management of type 2 diabetes. The hard rind fruits contain compounds with antidiabetes properties and may help fight obesity as well.

Pomegranates may have a soft spot in the fight against type 2 diabetes. These tough skinned fruits have demonstrated some antidiabetes benefits in several recent studies.

For example, let’s consider the fruit’s role in AGEs (advanced glycation endproducts). AGEs are the product of foods that are fried or prepared at high temperatures. Basically these substances form when sugar reacts with proteins. Dietary AGEs are associated with inflammation and oxidative stress, which in turn are linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and its complications.

In the Journal of Medicinal Food, experts reported on the impact of various fruit juices, including pomegranate, apple, cranberry, pineapple, Concord grape, and black cherry, on glycation. Pomegranate juice (and two of its major compounds, ellagic acid and punicalagin) was by far the most effective, as it inhibited glycation by 98 percent.

The oil in pomegranate seeds also may be effective in managing type 2 diabetes. In an animal study, researchers administered pomegranate seed oil, soybean oil, water, or nothing to groups of rats for 28 days.

At the end of the trial period, all the rats that did not get pomegranate seed oil showed lower levels of serum insulin and glutathione peroxidase activity. (Glutathione peroxidase protects the body against oxidative damage. Rats given pomegranate, however, had significantly higher levels of these two factors.

The findings indicate that pomegranate seed oil may improve insulin secretion. Fasting blood glucose levels, however, did not change with use of pomegranate seed oil.

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A review study from mid-2013 presented the findings of laboratory, animal, and human clinical studies. The authors reported that:

  • Pomegranate components reduce oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation (the degradation of lipids, resulting in cell damage) in several ways, including neutralization of certain oxidants (e.g., reactive oxygen species) and an increase in the activity of certain antioxidant enzymes, among others.
  • Pomegranate possesses anti-diabetic compounds, including ellagic, gallic, oleanolic, punicalagin, uallic, and ursolic acids
  • Pomegranate juice sugar fraction has unique phytonutrients that may help control type 2 diabetes
  • Pomegranate peel extract, methanolic seed extract, and punicic acid significantly reduce fasting blood glucose levels

Since obesity plays a major role in type 2 diabetes, it’s important to mention the potential contribution of pomegranate in assisting with this risk factor for the disease. A 2013 review from Virginia Tech pointed out a number of studies of the effect of pomegranate on obesity.

Here are two brief examples. In one study, mice fed a high-fat diet and treated with pomegranate seed oil experienced a decline in body weight and fat mass when compared with nontreated controls. In another study, catalpic acid (found in pomegranates) reduced the accumulation of abdominal fat and improved glucose tolerance in a mouse model of obesity.

Pomegranates are being studied for their value in the prevention and management of several health problems, including prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, and erectile dysfunction. Numerous experts have added diabetes to the list, and as some results suggest, pomegranate may have a role in type 2 diabetes.

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