POM Wonderful Warned About Deceptive Health Claims

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Although some of the benefits of pomegranate have been documented as far back as biblical times, the fruit has gained popularity over the past few years here in the States because of its vitamin and antioxidant compounds which may help contribute to the reduction in chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease. But to say that pomegranate can cure or treat a disease is going too far, and the FTC has filed a complaint against the most popular pomegranate product, POM Wonderful, for its deceiving claims.

The Federal Trade Commission says that POM Wonderful LLC and its parent company Roll International Corp have violated federal law by making “false and unsubstantiated claims” that pomegranate juice and POMx supplements can treat or prevent diseases such as heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. The agency has cited advertisements in national publications such as the New York Times, Parade, Fitness, and Prevention Magazine as well as Internet sites that state such unproven “facts” such as a “30% decrease in arterial plaque” and “40% as effective as Viagra”.

"Any consumer who sees POM Wonderful products as a silver bullet against disease has been misled," said David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Is the POM Really Wonderful?

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POM Wonderful maintains a website called “Wonderful Pomegranate Research” that cites studies conducted exclusively with California grown, Wonderful-variety pomegranates. The majority of studies were conducted on small numbers of participants (10 to 46 in most cases) given either a minimum of 8 ounces of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice or 850 mg of POMx pomegranate polyphenol extract per day.

Although the studies cited indicate positive results, further research into the original peer-review articles state clearly that further testing is needed to prove the validity of the results. The study on erectile dysfunction, for example, published in the International Journal of Impotence Research states limitations such as “cohort size, treatment period duration, and compliance issues.”

Pomegranate juices do contain more polyphenols than other fruit juices, which are thought to provide heart-protection benefits such as reducing LDL cholesterol. Although safe to drink, the beverage should not be thought of as a miracle product, but instead as a healthful addition to a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and unsaturated fats.

One should also be aware that POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice contains 160 calories (more than one 12-ounce can of soda). Although POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice contains only “naturally-occurring sugars”, consuming excess sweeteners from all sources have been linked to both heart disease and inadequate glucose control in diabetics.

A hearing will be scheduled within the next eight months, says the FTC.

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