The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. It surrounds a portion of the urethra and makes some components of semen. As a man ages, the prostate sometimes enlarges in a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, a noncancerous condition. Prostate cancer, common in older men, also causes enlargement of some regions of the prostate. Pomegranate juice has natural medicinal properties that may help prevent or slow prostatic enlargement from either BPH or prostate cancer. Discuss pomegranate juice with your doctor to decide if it might help you.
Causes, Symptoms and Testing
The exact causes of both BPH and prostate cancer are still unknown, although BPH may be due to age-related changes in sex hormones, and DNA damage may change normal prostate cells into cancerous cells. Both disorders can cause similar symptoms, including difficulty urinating with a weak stream of urine, a frequent urge to urinate and incomplete emptying of the bladder. Blood may appear in the urine at times, frequent urinary tract infections may occur, and, in prostate cancer, later stages may cause pelvic or hip pain and painful ejaculation. Elevated blood levels of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, might indicate the presence of either BPH or prostate cancer; additional testing will confirm a final diagnosis.
Pomegranate, also called Chinese apple, is the fruit of a large tree native to Iran and cultivated in many other parts of the world. Pomegranates contain hundreds of seeds, each surrounded by a juicy layer of pulp called the aril. Juice extracted from the arils is deep pink or red, and it contains many natural compounds, such as polyphenols, anthocyanins and ellagic acid, that have biological activity and give the juice its medicinal value.
Pomegranate juice inhibits an enzyme that produces estrogen, which is a possible cause of BPH in older men, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Compounds in pomegranate juice are also potent antioxidants that remove free radicals from your body. These metabolic byproducts and environmental toxins may damage your cellular membranes or DNA, raising the risk that normal prostatic cells may become cancerous. The University of Maryland Medical Center summarizes laboratory studies indicating that pomegranate juice inhibits growth of cancer cells, causes them to die and reduces growth of blood vessels into tumors. In addition, in a clinical study of pomegranate juice published in "Clinical Cancer Research" in 2006, men who had surgery or radiation for prostate cancer and drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily had a reduction in their rate of PSA production and other indications of slower regrowth of their cancer.
Pomegranate juice is available from specialty or health food stores, or you may purchase fresh pomegranates and press the seeds to produce juice. Drinking 8 to 12 ounces of pomegranate juice daily is considered safe, although it may worsen diarrhea or interact with medications, such as certain types of hypertension drugs and cholesterol-lowering medicines. Talk to your doctor before adding pomegranate juice to your regular regimen.
- National Institute on Aging: Prostate Problems
- Clinical Cancer Research; Phase II Study of Pomegranate Juice for Men with Rising Prostate-Specific Antigen Following Surgery for Prostate Cancer; A. Pantuck et al.
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Pomegranate
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Pomegranate
- National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Prostate Enlargement: Benign Prostatis Hyperplasia
- Harvard Medical School: Health Benefit of Pomegranate Juice on Prostate Cancer and the Heart