Pomegranate juice has been the center of controversy for a number of years. In 2010, the US FDA issued a warning that POM Wonderful, a major brand of pomegranate juice, made false and unsubstantiated claims that their juice can cure and prevent cancer. This controversy again surfaced in 2015, when the Federal Trade Commission alleged that POM produced advertisements that contained misleading claims that their juice can reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and other health conditions. But are these claims truly unsubstantiated?
I am always tremendously skeptical of companies that promote “cures” for cancer. Cure is a strong term that conjures our emotions. Using this term can give false hope to cancer patients. Doctors are reluctant to use the term when discussing prognosis with their patients. Can we truly rid the body of cancer? Hopefully someday, but cancer can be hard to detect and can recur years and even decades later. So, doctors use the term “remission” and some cancer patients use the term “survivor”. Scientists use terms like “inhibit growth” and “suppress expression”. All are reluctant to use the term “cure”. So, any company claiming a cure for cancer is only playing on our emotions to promote their products.
Definition of CURE is to make someone with an illness healthy again.Cambridge English Dictionary
However, all this doesn’t mean there isn’t some validity to POM’s claims. Pomegranate juice and pomegranate extract have been widely studied for their effects against various types of cancer.
Over a decade of research has shown that extracts of pomegranate fruit can inhibit growth of breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer cells in culture.
Pomegranate juice contains antioxidants
Pomegranate fruit contains powerful antioxidants, including tannins and flavonoids. Antioxidant activity of pomegranate juice is even higher than that of green tea. Antioxidants protect your body’s cells from damage from the free radicals. Free radicals are produced during normal body processes and when we fight infections. If they are not dealt with, free radicals can cause damage such as inflammation, cancer and other diseases. So eating foods that contain a lot of antioxidants can help protect us from these diseases.
Tumors are starved when blood vessels can’t develop
Pomegranate also contains compounds, such as luteolin and punicic acid, that stop the development of blood vessels in tumors. Preventing blood vessels in a tumor from growing also prevents any nutrients from getting to the tumor. So, the tumor essentially starves.
Pomegranate extract kills cancer cells
Extracts of pomegranate fruit have also been shown to destroy some tumor cells directly. Components of the pomegranate extract seem to target and shut down essential pathways inside of cancer cells. Shutting down these pathways results in the cancer cell dying.
Some of these pathways are also responsible for cancer cells breaking away from the main tumor and spreading through out the body. Thus, pomegranate extract seems to slow down metastasis.
More research in people is needed
Now, most of these studies have been done with cells in culture, not in the body. There are some studies that have been done recently in animals with promising results. However, does this translate to people with cancer? Can drinking 100% pomegranate juice slow down or prevent cancer in people?
There have been some studies done in men with prostate cancer, but the studies to date show conflicting results. It may be too early to tell. This is why the US FDA and Federal Trade Commission have concerns about promoting pomegranate juice as a cure or prevention for cancer.
In my opinion, why not drink pomegranate juice? If there is a chance it will help prevent my cancer from recurring, I am going to enjoy a glass of it. I will still listen to my doctors. I understand that pomegranate is not a cure for cancer; it is not a miracle food. But I will continue to use all the tools in my cancer fighting tool box, including pomegranate juice.
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