Pomegranate juice protects diabetics from heart disease

Drinking pomegranate juice may protect diabetics from developing heart disease, according to a new Israeli study published in the August issue of the journal Atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis -- a condition in which the walls of the arteries become thickened and hard -- is associated with roughly 80 percent of all deaths of patients with diabetes. The study -- conducted by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology -- examined the effects of daily consumption of pomegranate juice on the development of atherosclerosis.

The researchers, led by Professor Michael Aviram of the Technion Faculty of Medicine, found that diabetic patients who drank 6 ounces of pomegranate juice every day for 90 days experienced a lower risk of developing atherosclerosis.

The study's authors concluded that the juice inhibited the uptake of oxidized "bad" LDL cholesterol by immune cells called macrophages -- a process that can bring about the development of atherosclerosis.

Though pomegranate juice contains sugars identical to those found in other fruit juices -- which can increase blood sugar and exacerbate diabetes -- the sugars found in pomegranate juice did not appear to adversely affect the patients, the researchers found.

"In most juices, sugars are present in free -- and harmful -- forms," said Aviram. "In pomegranate juice, however, the sugars are attached to unique antioxidants, which actually make these sugars protective against atherosclerosis."

Though the study was fairly small -- consisting of only 20 participants -- it was part of a larger study aimed at proving the beneficial effects of pomegranate juice on cardiovascular diseases and the oxidation of cholesterol.

Previous research by Aviram has also examined the beneficial antioxidant and anti-atherosclerosis properties of onions, olive oil, licorice and red wine. Pomegranate juice has also been shown in earlier studies to be effective at reducing the risk of prostate cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

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