Pediatricians rightfully urge parents to limit the intake of sugary drinks to small children (even if the doctor’s themselves indulge in their own soft drinks). On the other hand, this research may encourage doctors to recommend some pomegranate juice daily for expecting mothers whose babies are not growing fast enough. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital carried a small study suggesting benefits for pregnancies diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Retardation (IUGR).
IUGR simply means that the pregnancy ultrasounds revealed the fetus’ size is not advancing as expected during the pregnancy’s progression. Besides the simple fact of being born smaller, such babies also experience higher mortality and morbidity. That means that have a higher rate of death and disease, especially brain issues.
The study looked at 78 mothers who had been diagnosed with IUGR in their current pregnancy. About ½ were given 8 oz of pomegranate juice daily, while the other half were given a fake juice drink without polyphenols which the researchers suspected was the active ingredient. Polyphenols, such as tannic acid and ellagitannins, are antioxidants produce by many nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. Other studies have shown that these antioxidants cross the blood brain barrier and have protective effects.
While the study did not show large scale structural changes, smaller changes in microscopic structure and connectivity were noted. As always, researchers urge more studies before widespread adoption of this practice.
A functional medicine doctor like myself always appreciates medical researchers interested in applying natural products to the challenges of poor health. Someday, we may find pomegranate or its polyphenol contents prescribed for pregnancy, both in wellness and when problems like IUGR occur. Until then, we advise pomegranate for a number of other conditions from gut health to heart health or pesticide detox. Just another tool in the toolbox, helping others live a healthier more abundant life.
Lillian G. Matthews, Christopher D. Smyser, Sara Cherkerzian, Dimitrios Alexopoulos, Jeanette Kenley, Methodius G. Tuuli, D. Michael Nelson, Terrie E. Inder. Maternal pomegranate juice intake and brain structure and function in infants with intrauterine growth restriction: A randomized controlled pilot study. PLOS ONE, 2019; 14 (8): e0219596 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219596
Thanks to Science Daily
Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Can pomegranate juice protect the infant brain?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 August 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190821142719.htm>.
Other studies on Polyphenol benefits cited in the original article above
Mokni M, Hamlaoui S, Karkouch I, Amri M, Marzouki L, Limam F, et al. Resveratrol Provides Cardioprotection after Ischemia/reperfusion Injury via Modulation of Antioxidant Enzyme Activities. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research: IJPR. 2013;12(4):867–75. pmid:24523766
Aquilano K, Baldelli S, Rotilio G, Ciriolo MR. Role of nitric oxide synthases in Parkinson’s disease: a review on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of polyphenols. Neurochemical research. 2008;33(12):2416–26. pmid:18415676
Bastianetto S, Krantic S, Quirion R. Polyphenols as potential inhibitors of amyloid aggregation and toxicity: possible significance to Alzheimer’s disease. Mini reviews in medicinal chemistry. 2008;8(5):429–35. pmid:18473932
Esmaillzadeh A, Tahbaz F, Gaieni I, Alavi-Majd H, Azadbakht L. Cholesterol-lowering effect of concentrated pomegranate juice consumption in type II diabetic patients with hyperlipidemia. International journal for vitamin and nutrition research Internationale Zeitschrift fur Vitamin- und Ernahrungsforschung Journal international de vitaminologie et de nutrition. 2006;76(3):147–51. pmid:17048194
Hong MY, Seeram NP, Heber D. Pomegranate polyphenols down-regulate expression of androgen-synthesizing genes in human prostate cancer cells overexpressing the androgen receptor. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry. 2008;19(12):848–55. pmid:18479901
Shema-Didi L, Sela S, Ore L, Shapiro G, Geron R, Moshe G, et al. One year of pomegranate juice intake decreases oxidative stress, inflammation, and incidence of infections in hemodialysis patients: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 2012;53(2):297–304. pmid:22609423
Heber D, Seeram NP, Wyatt H, Henning SM, Zhang Y, Ogden LG, et al. Safety and antioxidant activity of a pomegranate ellagitannin-enriched polyphenol dietary supplement in overweight individuals with increased waist size. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 2007;55(24):10050–4. pmid:17966977
Other infant brain studies
Loren DJ, Seeram NP, Schulman RN, Holtzman DM. Maternal dietary supplementation with pomegranate juice is neuroprotective in an animal model of neonatal hypoxic-ischemic brain injury. Pediatric research. 2005;57(6):858–64. pmid:15774834
West T, Atzeva M, Holtzman DM. Pomegranate polyphenols and resveratrol protect the neonatal brain against hypoxic-ischemic injury. Developmental neuroscience. 2007;29(4–5):363–72. pmid:17762204