Pomegranates have been a popular fruit for millennia and were thought of in ancient civilizations as symbols of prosperity and hope. In fact, in turns out that pomegranates may be more beneficial than the Greeks and Egyptians could have ever known. Modern research is growing that pomegranate juice contains compounds that could help boost levels of nitric oxide in the body and fight heart disease. Although it’s too soon to turn to pomegranates instead of traditional cardiovascular treatments, drinking pomegranate juice may be a tasty way to support a healthy heart and blood vessels.
Nitric oxide is a colorless gas with molecules containing one nitrogen atom and one oxygen atom that is involved in many important human physiological processes. Due to nitric oxide’s potential to help heart disease, build muscle and dilate the blood vessels that cause erections, the journal “Science” named nitric oxide Molecule of the Year in 1992. The 1998 Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded to the three people who discovered how nitric oxide and nitroglycerine work in the body to treat heart disease.
Nitric oxide helps increase and protect the artery lining to keep your arteries from becoming clogged. The inner layer of cells, called the endothelium, releases nitric oxide, which in turn sends a signal to the smooth-muscle cells of your artery walls prompting them to dilate. Wider arteries helps increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure and can prevent blood clots. Antioxidants like vitamins A and C, which pomegranate contains, help prevent the breakdown of nitric oxide in your body, and pomegranate juice is particularly helpful at augmenting nitric oxide.
Two studies published in the scientific journal “Nitric Oxide” tried to determine the effectiveness of pomegranate juice in promoting nitric oxide production. The first, from September 2006, found that pomegranate juice was more potent than Concord grape juice, blueberry juice, red wine or ascorbic acid in protecting nitric oxide against oxidative destruction and augmented nitric oxide’s biological actions. The second study, published two months later, showed that pomegranate juice enhanced the effects of nitric oxide synthesis in the endothelial cells that line coronary arteries. An Italian study published in 2005 in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” also examined the role of pomegranate juice in nitric oxide synthesis in artery sections with the plaque deposits. Pomegranate juice increased the levels of nitric oxide in all blood vessels, particularly in blood vessels with the most plaque buildup.
As of May 2011, no clinical trials had been conducted on the effects of pomegranate juice to increase nitric oxide levels in humans. Although pomegranate juice is likely safe for most people, long-term side effects or any drug interactions are unknown. One case of an allergy to pomegranate was reported in 1992 in the “Journal of Investigative Allergology & Clinical Immunology” in a child with asthma.