Can Consuming Pomegranates Lower Your Cholesterol?

Pomegranate (Puncia granatum L) is a fruit grown in various areas of the world, including Southeast Asia and parts of the western United States. Chock-full of vitamin C, pomegranates are not only added to many entrees and desserts, but they have also been used to improve a variety of medical conditions, including diarrhea, menopause, and erectile dysfunction. Because they are also high in antioxidants and other healthy nutrients, pomegranates are also available as a supplement. Some studies suggest that pomegranates may be able to improve heart health by lowering your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. But do they really work?

Glasses of pomegranate juice and sliced pomegranate
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Pomegranates and Your Cholesterol

Unfortunately, there are not many studies examining the effects of pomegranates on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Those studies that do exist, which have been conducted on both humans and animals, have yielded mixed results. Most studies examine the effect of pomegranate juice, rather than the whole pomegranate fruit. While some studies suggest that LDL and total cholesterol levels are slightly lowered (between 3% and 10%) by consuming pomegranate juice, other studies suggest that pomegranates may not have a significant, positive impact on any part of your lipid profile. In these studies, healthy participants or individuals with diabetes consumed between 50 mL and 1 liter of concentrated pomegranate juice daily for a time period between 5 days and one year.

A couple of other studies looking at the effect of pomegranate juice on lipids noted that the antioxidant properties of pomegranate juice may be able to help reduce oxidized LDL, a type of LDL cholesterol that can contribute to the formation of atherosclerosis. Additionally, carotid intima-media thickness, which measures plaque thickness in the carotid artery, was reduced by up to 30% in individuals drinking pomegranate juice in one study, compared to a 9% increase in carotid intima-media thickness noted in those consuming a placebo drink. It is thought that the polyphenols found in pomegranates are the source of the antioxidant activity. Polyphenols are healthy chemicals found in various fruits, veggies, and nuts, such as blueberries, red grapes, and plums.

Should You Include Pomegranates to Lower Your Lipids?

More studies are needed to assess whether or not pomegranates can help lower your lipids and your risk of developing atherosclerosis. The majority of studies conducted examine the effect of consuming pomegranate juice and not whole pomegranates on heart health. Studies to date have not shown that pomegranate juice can definitively lower cholesterol and reduce the formation of atherosclerosis, but the results so far appear promising.

Pomegranates are high in many healthy nutrients, including fiber, so this fruit would be good to include if you are following a diet to lower your lipids. However, if you decide to add pomegranates to your cholesterol-lowering regimen, you should be aware that this fruit and its juices may interact with certain drugs. Therefore, you should consult with your healthcare provider to make sure that pomegranates or pomegranate juice will not interfere with any of your other medications. Additionally, some juices may contain high amounts of refined sugar which could add calories to your daily intake. You can avoid selecting juices high in sugar by checking out the nutrition label.

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By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.