A preliminary new study shows that people with diabetes who drank pomegranate juice for three months had a lower risk of atherosclerosis -- or hardening of the arteries. In addition, the pomegranate juice appeared to slow the absorption of unhealthy LDL cholesterol by immune cells.
People with diabetes have increased risk for atherosclerosis, which contributes to coronary heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and other circulation problems.
These results suggest that the antioxidants found in pomegranate juice may be especially beneficial in reducing these heart-related risks associated with diabetes.
"In most juices, sugars are present in free -- and harmful -- forms," says researcher Michael Aviram, of the Technion Faculty of Medicine in Haifa, Israel, in a news release. "In pomegranate juice, however, the sugars are attached to unique antioxidants, which actually make these sugars protective against atherosclerosis."
People with diabetes aren't able to process sugars normally and are advised to monitor their intake of food and beverages high in natural or processed sugars, including fruit juice.
Pomegranate Juice Reduces Diabetes Risks
In the small study, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, researchers examined the effects of drinking a specially prepared concentrated pomegranate juice that is the equivalent to about a 6-ounce glass of "single strength pomegranate juice, just as it is when you squeeze the pomegranate and get the juice," Aviram tells WebMD by email, every day for three months in 10 healthy adults and 10 adults with type 2 diabetes (who were not dependent on insulin therapy).
Drinking pomegranate juice did not affect overall cholesterol levels, but researchers found it reduced the uptake of oxidized "bad" LDL cholesterol by immune cells, which is a major contributing factor to atherosclerosis.
Although pomegranate juice contains a similar level of sugars as other fruit juices, Aviram says they were surprised to find that the sugars in pomegranate juice did not worsen diabetes markers, such as blood sugar levels, in the participants with diabetes.
SOURCES: Rosenblat, M. Atherosclerosis, August 2006; vol 186: pp 363-371. News release, American Technion Society.
By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D