Pomegranate supplements have been around for decades, readily available to anyone who wants to improve their health.
But long before commercially produced supplements were created, ancient cultures used the pomegranate fruit to treat a variety of ailments.1
There have been many apocryphal accounts of the amazing health benefits of pomegranate. And modern research indicates that there may be some truth to these accounts.
Multiple research studies show that pomegranate may reduce disease-causing inflammation, fight breast cancer, lower blood pressure, and so much more.
One of the reasons for these and other beneficial health effects is that pomegranate has been shown to exert potent anti-inflammatory effects in the gut.2,3,4,5
The Importance of the Gut in Overall Health
The gut microbiome consists of a variety of “good” and “bad” microorganisms -- such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses -- that produce vitamins, break down food, and perform other digestion-related tasks.
The gut also appears to communicate with the brain and vice versa through the vagus nerve and by transmitting signals through the circulatory system and across the blood-brain barrier.6
Whether this communication is beneficial for your health depends in large part upon the composition of the microorganisms in your gut.
Research indicates that microbial imbalances in the gut, known as dysbiosis, may lead to many physical, mental, and emotional disorders.
Pomegranate and Gut Inflammation
Dysbiosis has been linked to gut inflammation, which if not addressed can lead to many chronic diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and heart disease.7
This indicates that reducing gut inflammation may reduce the risk of many of our most common health conditions. And reducing gut inflammation appears to be one of pomegranate’s specialties.
The reason for its anti-inflammatory effect appears to be Urolithin A.
Pomegranate contains ellagitannins, a type of polyphenol. Urolithin A is a metabolite of ellagitannins, which is converted into ellagic acid by your gut bacteria and then further converted into Urolithin A in the large intestine.
The amount of Urolithin A you get depends upon the efficiency of your gut microbes, however. In other words, some people may get little or no Urolithin A from pomegranate.
A 2009 study on rats fed pomegranate extract for 5 days showed a significant anti-inflammatory effect in the colon.
However, the formation of Urolithin A was prevented in rats with colonic inflammation, leading researchers to suggest that Urolithin A is a potent anti-inflammatory in healthy subjects, but in those with colonic inflammation, the anti-inflammatory effects could be due to the non-metabolized ellagitannin content.
Either way, pomegranate may be useful in reducing gut inflammation.8
Other research suggests that Urolithin A can reduce inflammation and restore the integrity of the gut barrier. T
his can help reduce and defend against inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.9
Pomegranate and Gut Bacteria
Pomegranate consumption doesn't just reduce inflammation. Studies suggest it may also promote positive changes in gut microbiota.
In a 2015 study published in the Food & Function journal, researchers found that several types of gut-friendly bacteria were significantly increased after four weeks of daily pomegranate consumption.10 These bacteria include:
- Lactobacillus: Helps us break down food and absorb nutrients, while fending off attacks from “bad” microorganisms. Lactobacillus is commonly taken orally to ease symptoms of irritable bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and other gastrointestinal issues.
- Escherichia: Helps produce vitamin K and helps keeps the intestines from being overrun with harmful bacteria.
- Veillonella: Ferments lactate in the colon, creating the metabolites, propionate and acetate. These metabolites are vital for gut barrier integrity and can help defend against leaky gut.
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References - Pomegranate
2- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Pomegranate. NIH. Last Updated: Aug 2020. Accessed Nov 19, 2020.
3- Dikmen M, Ozturk N, Ozturk Y. The antioxidant potency of Punica granatum L. Fruit peel reduces cell proliferation and induces apoptosis on breast cancer. J Med Food. 2011 Dec;14(12):1638-46. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2011.0062. Epub 2011 Aug 23. PMID: 21861726.
4- Asgary S, Sahebkar A, Afshani MR, Keshvari M, Haghjooyjavanmard S, Rafieian‐Kopaei M. Clinical Evaluation of Blood Pressure Lowering, Endothelial Function Improving, Hypolipidemic and Anti‐Inflammatory Effects of Pomegranate Juice in Hypertensive Subjects. Phytotherapy Research. Volume28, Issue2. Feb 2014. Pages 193-199.
5- Colombo E, Sangiovanni E, Dell'agli M. A review on the anti-inflammatory activity of pomegranate in the gastrointestinal tract. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:247145. doi: 10.1155/2013/247145. Epub 2013 Mar 14. PMID: 23573120; PMCID: PMC3612487.
6- Science of Aging. How Does the Gut Microbiome Affect Our Health? Better Aging. Jul 14, 2019. Accessed Nov 20, 2020.
7- Carding S, Verbeke K, Vipond DT, Corfe BM, Owen LJ. Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota in disease. Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2015 Feb 2;26:26191. doi: 10.3402/mehd.v26.26191. PMID: 25651997; PMCID: PMC4315779.
8- Larrosa M, González-Sarrías A, Yáñez-Gascón MJ, Selma MV, Azorín-Ortuño M, Toti S, Tomás-Barberán F, Dolara P, Espín JC. Anti-inflammatory properties of a pomegranate extract and its metabolite urolithin-A in a colitis rat model and the effect of colon inflammation on phenolic metabolism. J Nutr Biochem. 2010 Aug;21(8):717-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2009.04.012. Epub 2009 Jul 18. PMID: 19616930.
9- Singh R, Chandrashekharappa S, Bodduluri SR, Baby BV, Hegde B, Kotla NG, Hiwale AA, Saiyed T, Patel P, Vijay-Kumar M, Langille MGI, Douglas GM, Cheng X, Rouchka EC, Waigel SJ, Dryden GW, Alatassi H, Zhang HG, Haribabu B, Vemula PK, Jala VR. Enhancement of the gut barrier integrity by a microbial metabolite through the Nrf2 pathway. Nat Commun. 2019 Jan 9;10(1):89. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-07859-7. PMID: 30626868; PMCID: PMC6327034.
10- Li Z, Henning SM, Lee R, Qing-Yi Lu Q, Summanen PH, Thames G, Corbett K, Downes J, Tseng C. Finegold SM, Hebera D. Pomegranate extract induces ellagitannin metabolite formation and changes stool microbiota in healthy volunteers. Food & Function. Issue 8, 2015.