Pomegranates Cut Alzheimer’s Risk

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A recent study in middle-aged mice prone to develop beta-amyloid plaques examined the impact of pomegranate juice concentrate versus plain water on their ability to master a water maze. Beta-amyloid is a protein found in larger amounts in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The mice given the pomegranate juice were able to negotiate a water maze 35% more quickly than those given plain water. When the researchers examined the brains of the two groups of animals they found those given the pomegranate juice had 50% less beta-amyloid protein in their brains than the animals in the control group. This study was published in the October issue of Neurobiology of Disease.

According to lead author Dr. Hartman at Loma Linda University, “This is the first study to show beneficial effects (both behavioral and neuropatholigical) of pomegranate juice in an animal model of AD.”

Another study examined the impact of curcumin (a phytochemical in turmeric) on the ability of white blood cells (WBC) from either patients with AD or healthy volunteers to engulf beta-amyloid. These WBCs (called macrophages) play an important role in the body engulfing potentially harmful materials such as bacteria and LDL particles. This study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease last April showed that in half the patients with AD, the curcumin enhanced the ability of their WBCs to engulf the beta-amyloid.

Bottom Line: One may not have to eat pomegranates or turmeric in order to obtain beneficial phytochemicals that may very well help reduce the build up of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, but it couldn’t hurt. Of course, there are numerous other potentially beneficial phytochemicals found in a wide variety of other fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. A recent meta-analysis of 9 large cohort studies found increased consumption of fruits and vegetables was associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.1

Growing scientific evidence suggests that dietary factors that promote CAD also promote AD.


By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN


1 J Nutr 2006;136:2588-93

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