AICR Health Talk

by Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND

Q: Is it true that pomegranates help prevent prostate cancer?

A: Research showing possible effects of pomegranates and pomegranate juice against prostate cancer is underway, but results are tentative. The majority of research comes from cell and animal studies, with few cancer-specific studies in people.
Pomegranates have a high amount of polyphenols, a group of compounds that have shown antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in lab studies. One polyphenol - punicalagin - is unique to pomegranates. During digestion, our body produces urolithins from punicalagin and related polyphenols. In laboratory studies, these urolithins have decreased prostate cancer cell growth and its ability to spread.
Human studies have shown that pomegranate juice or extract can raise blood levels of antioxidant compounds, although people vary in their response. Two small intervention studies found that drinking one to three cups of pomegranate juice or equivalent in extract daily significantly slowed the rise of PSA levels in men with early stage prostate cancer. No studies have found effects in men with advanced prostate cancer.
The high polyphenol content of pomegranates and laboratory-based anti-cancer effects show exciting potential, but we’re far from having a basis to recommend pomegranates for prostate cancer protection. Nevertheless, while we wait for more research, there are many nutrition and taste reasons to enjoy pomegranate juice and the arils - the red seed pods inside the fruit. Mix the arils in salads, hot or cold cereal, yogurt, smoothies, rice and many other foods.
For more information, call the dietitians at Veterans Memorial Hospital at 563-568-3411.