Pomegranate Seed Oil: The Healthiest Part of the Fruit

The pomegranate tree, Punica granatum, and especially its fruit, has a vast history of uses for the treatment of medical and health related issues. Pomegranate consumption has been associated with antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory properties, has been touted for use in the treatment and prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dental conditions, erectile dysfunction, bacterial infections and antibiotic resistance, ultraviolet radiation-induced skin damage, infant brain ischemia, male infertility, Alzheimer disease, arthritis, and obesity.

For more information on the health benefits of pomegranates, particularly the juice of the fruit, go to my Supplement Sciences page.

For the purposes of this discussion the pomegranate is the fruit of the Punica granatum tree which is a long-living tree cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region, as far north as the Himalayas, in Southeast Asia, and in California and Arizona in the United States. Medically beneficial compounds can be derived from the seed, juice, peel, leaf, flower, bark, and roots of the pomegranate. Each of these anatomical compartments of the plant has potentially beneficial pharmacologic activity. For example the juice and peels possess potent antioxidant properties, while juice, peel and oil are all weakly estrogenic and have potential use for the treatment of the symptoms of menopause. The use of juice, peel and oil have also been shown to possess anticancer activities, including interference with tumor cell proliferation, cell cycle progression, tumor cell invasion and angiogenesis.

The rind of the pomegranate has been shown to contain antimicrobial activity that may be effective in the treatment of common hospital bacteria, especially methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The fruit of the pomegranate contains hundreds of phytochemicals, however, the antioxidant property of the fruit (not the seed) is thought to be due primarily to the action of ellagic acid (the main polyphenol in pomegranate) derived from ellagitannins. When pomegranates are consumed the ellagitannins are hydrolyzed, releasing ellagic acid, which is then converted, by gut bacteria, to derivatives that are called urolithin A and urolithin B).

Pomegranates also contain hydrolyzable tannins in the form of punicalagins and punicalin as well as tannin-based complex oligomers that account for much of the antioxidant activity in juice. Pomegranate juice contains anthocyanins, glucose, ascorbic acid, ellagic acid, gallic acid, caffeic acid, catechin, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), quercetin, rutin, numerous minerals, particularly iron, and amino acids.

Pomegranate seed oil is nearly 100% punicic acid (also called trichosanic acid) with small amounts of ellagic acid, sterols, and other fatty acids. Punicic acid is an 18 carbon polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that is classified as a conjugated linolenic acid. Punicic acid contains three carbon-carbon double bonds, two that exist in the cis orientation and one in the trans orientation. Because punicic acid is a PUFA it is often erroneously classified using the omega fatty acid nomenclature and as such is often identified as an omega-5 PUFA. However, the correct use of the omega PUFA nomenclature can only be applied to PUFA whose carbon-carbon double bonds are all in the cis orientation. Despite the confusion regarding its naming, punicic acid has been shown to have potent anti-oxidant activities and to prevent obesity in laboratory animals. Of significance to the health benefits of punicic acid, pomegranate juice has little of this important PUFA and the seeds are discarded after juice extraction for retail sale of pomegranate juice.



  • structure of punicic acid


The published (peer-reviewed research) health benefits of punicic acid have been reviewed in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease and define the numerous beneficial effects that punicic acid plays in the reduction of the metabolic syndrome in humans. 

Punicic acid: A striking health substance to combat metabolic syndromes in humans.

As a brief overview, the metabolic syndrome, MetS (also once referred to as Syndrome X), is a disorder that defines a combination of metabolic and cardiovascular risk determinants. These risk factors include insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, central adiposity (obesity associated with excess fat deposits around the waist), dyslipidemia, glucose intolerance, hypertension, pro-inflammatory status, and microalbuminemia. The hallmark feature of MetS is indeed insulin resistance. For more details regarding MetS visit my website:


https://themedicalbiochemistrypage.org/metabolic-syndrome.php

The TAKE HOME from the review of the scientific literature is quite profound and strongly indicates that the consumption of pomegranate seed oil has major benefits that are not associated with the consumption of pomegranate juice. However, the ellagic acid in pomegranate juice, as well as the numerous other phytochemicals in the juice, should not be ignored. Punicic acid exert potent anti-oxidant activity and anti-diabetic properties as a result of the activation of numerous molecular pathways. So be sure to consider adding pomegranate seed oil to you healthy diet. 

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