Israeli research: Pomegranate juice can reduce risk of heart disease, stroke

Research shows that antioxidants in pomegranate juice, taken with statins, significantly reduce risk of heart disease and stroke.

Prof. Michael Aviram in his office at the Technion. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Prof. Michael Aviram in his office at the Technion.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
People who take low-dose statin pills to reduce their blood cholesterol levels should also consume pomegranate juice or concentrate to significantly reduce their risk of heart disease, according to researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Rappaport Medical Faculty and Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center.
Prof. Michael Aviram published an article last week in the journal Atherosclerosis showing that consuming the juice is beneficial.
Its antioxidant components, called phytosterols, hinder the oxidation of the cholesterol and cells and do a lot to reduce atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.
Phytosterols, which include plant sterols and stanols, are steroid compounds similar to cholesterol but which occur in plants. Phytosterol-enriched foods and dietary supplements have been marketed for decades.
Despite numerous reports that they lower “bad cholesterol” (low-density lipoprotein or LDL), there has been no scientifically proven evidence until the Haifa study.
“The more LDL rises, the faster the development of atherosclerosis,” Aviram said. “The main treatment is with statins, which hinder the production of cholesterol and reduce its level in the blood.”
But dealing with the low quality of cholesterol – its surplus oxidation – can be done through antioxidants whose main source is fruit peels and vegetables. Even though statins have a beneficial effect in lowering cholesterol, they have only minimal influence on oxidation.
“High doses of statins can cause muscle pain,” he added.
“Low doses of statins can help, but then their effects are smaller. But natural phytosterols in fruits and vegetables can naturally use a different mechanism to lower cholesterol.”
Pomegranates, which are high in the antioxidants, are very effective in reducing cholesterol without the side effects of high doses of statins, he concluded.