We're a little crazy, about science!

Pomegranate eases Alzheimer’s? I’m skeptical


Alternative medicine is garbage, there I said it. Thankfully there is a difference between alternative and “natural” medicine. I shudder at the term “natural” medicine, but that is typically what medicine based from things in nature (in other words practically all medicine used). Well to cut to the chase, new research shows that the onset of Alzheimer’s disease can be slowed and some of its symptoms curbed by a natural compound that is found in pomegranate, unfortunately I am just a little skeptical of this.

Furthermore, they claim painful inflammation that accompanies illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson’s disease could be reduced. This is according to the findings of a two-year project headed by University of Huddersfield scientist Dr Olumayokun Olajide, who specialises in the anti-inflammatory properties of natural products. Again natural products is a loosely based term, but we’ll go with it.

Now, a new phase of research will explore the development of drugs that could potentially stem the development of dementias such as Alzheimer’s, which affects some 800,000 people just in the UK, with 163,000 new cases a year being diagnosed. Globally, there are at least 44.4 million dementia sufferers, with the numbers expected to soar with the aging population.

The key breakthrough by the team is to demonstrate that punicalagin, which is a polyphenol — or a form of chemical compound — found in pomegranate fruit, can inhibit inflammation in specialised brain cells known as microglia. This inflammation leads to the destruction of more and more brain cells, making the condition of Alzheimer’s sufferers progressively worse.

There is still no cure for the disease unfortunately, but the punicalagin in pomegranate — or a derivative of it — could prevent it or slow down its development.

The team used brain cells isolated from rats in order to test their findings. As anyone who knows research, this is a far cry from human implications so it is too early to say for sure that this will work in humans. However, the research is still important, if only to find new pathways in the brain — human or otherwise.

The research is so much in it’s infancy the group is still working on the amounts of pomegranate that are required, in order to be effective.

“But we do know that regular intake and regular consumption of pomegranate has a lot of health benefits – including prevention of neuroinflammation related to dementia,” he says, recommending juice products that are 100 percent pomegranate, meaning that approximately 3.4 per cent will be punicalagin, the compound that slows down the progression of dementia.

Dr Olajide states that most of the anti-oxidant compounds are found in the outer skin of the pomegranate, not in the soft part of the fruit. And he adds that although this has yet to be scientifically evaluated, pomegranate will be useful in any condition for which inflammation – not just neuroinflammation – is a factor, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s and cancer.

This is a good example of why being a Doctor does not mean you are not susceptible to confirmation bias. Polyphenols, or other antioxidants can actually make cancer worse. Granted that research is new and giving the Doctor the benefit of the doubt he may not know of those findings. Still the amount — or rather lack — of research on his part before publishing makes me wonder if he had to publish to keep his funding, or if he honestly thought he was ready to publish.

In any case his research is continuing and I could be wrong, I wouldn’t be upset if I was that is for sure. At the same time I don’t like giving hope to people unless there is something to be hopeful for and I have yet to see a reason to be hopeful from this research. Sorry guys, I hate to be a downer here.

Want to see the full study? Well you can read this —here!

Olajide OA, Kumar A, Velagapudi R, Okorji UP, & Fiebich BL (2014). Punicalagin inhibits neuroinflammation in LPS-activated rat primary microglia. Molecular nutrition & food research PMID: 25066095


2 responses

  1. Lane Simonian

    Unfortunately, skepticism is what is inhibiting an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is primarily a disease caused by oxidative stress. The oxidant peroxynitrite causes inflammation, limits the blood flow in the brain, inhibits the release and synthesis of neurotransmitters involved in short-term memory, sleep, mood, social recognition, and alertness, prevents the regeneration of neurons, and causes the death of neurons. Polyphenols in a variety of fruits, vegetables, spices, drinks, and essential oils (via aromatherapy) inhibit the formation of peroxynitrites, scavenge them, and reverse part of the damage listed above. I have seen dozens of studies in which polyphenols have reversed Alzheimer’s disease in mice. The most effective ones such as essential oils containing eugenol (rosemary essential oil in the case of the Jimbo study with aromatherapy), eugenol and ferulic acid in an extract of lemon balm (Akhondzadeh), and ferulic acid, maltol, vanillic acid, and syringic acid in ginseng (Heo 2011 and 2012) have actually partially reversed Alzheimer’s disease in human clinical trials.


    August 22, 2014 at 11:43 am

    • While I don’t particularly disagree with what you are saying, I do disagree with what the Doctor in the study was suggesting, that while there isn’t research to back it up antioxidants are good for cancer for example.

      I have yet to see a convincing study showing that polyphenols have an effect in human cases of alzheimer’s. Unfortunately mouse models and human studies don’t always agree. While I really, really want there to be a cure or even a partial treatment, I also don’t think there has been enough research to start “hoping”. I just don’t think we should put our blinders on and focus on this one thing because we think it’s in our reach when there may be a better option, especially with the lack of human trials.


      August 22, 2014 at 7:07 pm

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