(photo credit: REUTERS)
Drinking half a glass of pomegranate juice along with a handful of dates has so many antioxidants that they are a winning combination to provide maximum protection against atherosclerosis – the clogging of coronary arteries. So claim researchers at Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Rambam Medical Center, who recently published their research in Food & Function, a journal of Britain’s Royal Society of Chemistry.
Prof. Michael Aviram of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and Rambam and his team have discovered that the combination of pomegranate juice and dates – along with their pits – provide maximum protection against the buildup of plaque on the endothelium of the arteries, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
A number of risk factors are involved in the development of atherosclerosis, including cholesterol oxidation that leads to accumulation of lipids in the arterial wall. Natural antioxidants can slow down the oxidation process in the body and minimize the risk of heart attack. For the past quarter century, Aviram his research team have been working on isolating and researching those antioxidants to keep plaque buildup at bay.
Going into the most recent study, the team was aware of the individual benefits provided by pomegranates and dates.
Pomegranate juice, rich in polyphenolic antioxidants (derived from plants), has been shown to most significantly reduce oxidative stress. Dates, which are rich sources of phenolic radical scavenger antioxidants, also inhibit the oxidation of LDL (the so-called “bad cholesterol”) and stimulate the removal of cholesterol from lipid-laden arterial cells.
Prof. Aviram had a hunch that since dates and pomegranate juice are composed of different phenolic antioxidants, the combination could thus prove more beneficial than the sum of its parts.
In a trial performed on arterial cells in culture, as well as in atherosclerotic mice, the Technion team found that the triple combination of pomegranate juice, date fruit, and ground date pits did indeed provide maximum protection against the development of atherosclerosis, because the combination reduced oxidative stress in the arterial wall by 33 percent and decreased arterial cholesterol content by 28%.
The researchers conclude that people at high risk for cardiovascular diseases, as well as healthy individuals, could benefit from consuming the combination of half a glass of pomegranate juice (118 milliliters), together with three dates. Ideally, the pits should be ground up into a paste and eaten as well, but even without the pits, the combination is better than either fruit alone.