Pomegranate fruit extracts can block enzymes that contribute toosteoarthritis according to a Case Western Reserve University School ofMedicine study published in the September 2005 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.
The study looked at the ability of an extract of pomegranate fruitagainst Interleukin-1b (IL-1b), a pro-inflammatory protein moleculethat plays a key role in cartilage degradation in osteoarthritis.Current treatments for osteoarthritis -- which affects 20 millionpeople nationwide, according to the National Institutes of Health --offer limited effectiveness and do little to slow joint destruction anddisease progression.
"This has generated considerable interest in theidentification and development of new approaches and reagents to treatand inhibit, if not abolish, the progress of the disease," said TariqM. Haqqi, Ph.D., professor of medicine at Case.
"Arthritis is one of the foremost diseases for which patientsseek herbal or traditional medicine treatments. However, all theextracts and herbs have not yet been scientifically evaluated for theirefficacy and safety. Indeed, some of them may even interfere with thecurrent treatments," Haqqi said. "Therefore, careful use of supplementsand herbal medicines during early stages of disease or treatment may bemade to limit the disease progression."
Plant-based flavonoids found in fruits, leaves and vegetableshave attracted a lot of attention for their beneficial health effectsin various diseases. Pomegranate, in particular, has been found topossess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that havepotential therapeutic benefits in a variety of diseases. The Case studydemonstrated for the first time the ability of pomegranate fruitextracts to slow the deterioration of human cartilage.
"It has been revered through the ages for its medicinalproperties," said Haqqi. "Studies in animal models of cancer suggestthat pomegranate fruit extract consumption may be anticarcinogenic,whereas studies in mice and humans indicate that it may also have apotential therapeutic and chemopreventive adjuvant effect incardiovascular disorders."
A bonus with the native Persian fruit is that its antioxidant constituents are rapidly absorbed by the body and are non-toxic.
Using tissue samples of human cartilage affected byosteoarthritis, researchers added a water extract of pomegranate fruitto the culture using a well-established in vitro model. The findingsshowed a new activity for pomegranate fruit extract -- namely cartilageprotection -- in addition to its previously discovered antioxidant andanti-inflammatory properties.
The IL-1b protein molecules create an overproduction ofinflammatory molecules including matrix metalloproteases (MMP), whichare tightly regulated enzymes necessary for tissue remodeling. Whenoverproduced in a disease state, such as osteoarthritis, they degradethe cartilage resulting in joint damage and destruction.
The Case study results indicate that pomegranate fruitextracts inhibit the overproduction of MMP enzymes in human cartilagecells.
"This suggests that consumption of pomegranate fruit extractmay help in protecting cartilage from the effects of IL-1b bysuppressing cartilage degradation in OA," Haqqi said.
More studies are needed to determine the absorption rate ofpomegranate fruit extracts in the joints. Future plans include animalmodel studies in osteoarthritis to determine whether the fruit extractpromotes cartilage repair, and whether it can also be effective intreating rheumatoid arthritis.
This research was supported in part by grants from the NationalInstitutes of Health National Institute of Arthritis andMusculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and from the National Center forComplementary and Alternative Medicine.
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