A new food takes the stage as a possible ally in our ongoing fight against cancer. A recent study out of California has found that a compound in pomegranates may lower the risk of hormone-dependent breast cancer. The findings, published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, were supported by the National Institutes of Health in the US.
The compound from pomegranate is called aromatase and it is a metabolite of ellagic acid, a polyphenol antioxidant found in past studies to stop carcinogenic compounds from binding to DNA, therefore preventing the formation of cancer. Aromatase may work by inhibiting an enzyme that prevents the hormone androgen from converting to oestrogen, a hormone that plays a key role in the development of breast cancer.
Principal investigator Shiuan Chen, PhD. was surprised by the findings: “We previously found other fruits, such as grapes, to be capable of the inhibition of aromatase. But, phytochemicals in pomegranates and in grapes are different.”
This study adds to the growing number of findings on the health attributes of pomegranates. With the high number of antioxidants found in pomegranate, past studies have focused on the fruit’s role in heart health. Other studies have shown promise in pomegranates’ preventative role in prostate cancer and its ability to slow cartilage loss in cases of arthritis.
Another recent study found that a polyphenol from pomegranate called punicalagin is a potent anti-viral. The compound was found to block the ability of the virus to replicate itself, making it an excellent flu-fighter. Punicalagin is delicate, however, and is often destroyed in juice extraction, so it is recommended that you either eat fresh pomegranates or an extract supplement to derive these effects.