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Pomegranate juice may provide important health benefits for diabetic patients, according to a study by Technion researchers published in the August 2006 issue of Atherosclerosis. Volunteers who drank 180 milliliters of pomegranate juice daily for three months had a reduced risk for atherosclerosis, a condition that leads to arterial wall thickening and hardening. Atherosclerosis accounts for 80 percent of all deaths among diabetic patients.
The researchers also found that drinking pomegranate juice reduced the uptake of oxidized LDL ("bad" cholesterol) by large, versatile immune cells known as macrophages. Oxidized LDL uptake by macrophages is a main contributing factor to the development of atherosclerosis.
One surprising finding, said lead researcher Prof. Michael Aviram of the Technion's Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, was that the sugars contained in pomegranate juice - although similar in content to those found in other fruit juices - did not worsen diabetes disease parameters (including blood sugar levels) in the patients, but in fact reduced the risk for atherosclerosis.
"In most juices, sugars are present in free - and harmful - forms," explained Aviram. "In pomegranate juice, however, the sugars are attached to unique antioxidants, which actually make these sugars protective against atherosclerosis."
The findings of this small (20 subjects) study are part of Aviram's ongoing research into the effects of pomegranates on cholesterol oxidation and cardiovascular diseases. In his previous widely published studies, Aviram was the first to prove that consuming red wine reduces cholesterol oxidation and arteriosclerosis, which leads to heart disease, a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the Western world. His later studies confirmed the antioxidant and anti-atherosclerotic benefits of licorice, olive oil, onions and pomegranates.
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