The first indication of the usefulness of fruit antioxidants in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis was provided by a study in which the extract of pomegranate was found to reduce the risk and severity of arthritis in mice.
Soon after, another study was done with human subjects and the same positive result was replicated. This study, published in the academic journal of Israeli Medical Association, showed that daily consumption of pomegranate was sufficient to provide relief for the major symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
The eight arthritis patients recruited for the study received 10 ml of pomegranate extract daily over a period of 12 weeks. After the study, the results showed that the severity of arthritis had reduced by 17% on average for the group of patients.
In addition, signs of oxidative stress were found to be considerably reduced. This directly translate to a reduction in joint inflammation.
However, the most significant outcome of this study was the dramatic relief in joint pain and tenderness. There was a 62% reduction in the severity of joint deterioration. This represents a big improvement that makes this natural remedy an excellent alternative to popular arthritis medications.
So, what is pomegranate and how was it able to achieve this feat?
Pomegranate: A Fruit for All Seasons
Pomegranate is a fruit crop that can be found in both hemispheres. This means that it grows at least in one part of the world at any time of the year. There are over 500 cultivars of pomegranate and the fruit has strong culinary and medicinal roots in different cultures and even as far backs as ancient civilizations.
The most important phytochemicals in pomegranate are antioxidants. These are referred to as the phenolic content of pomegranate.
A group of tannins known as ellagitannins are the most common polyphenol antioxidants in pomegranate.
These compounds have been shown to be effective in mopping up free radicals in laboratory experiments. Because they are easily absorbed and made available as antioxidants in the human body, it follows that ellagitannins are responsible for the health benefits of pomegranate juice.
Other compounds in the phenolic extract of pomegranate include catechins, gallocatechins and anthocyanins.
Pomegranate also contains other antioxidants such as vitamin C. Besides vitamin C, it is also a good source of B vitamins as well as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc.
Even pomegranate seeds are of great nutritional value because they contain seed fiber and micronutrients.
In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the antioxidant potencies of commonly consumed polyphenol-rich beverages were compared.
The study result showed that pomegranate juice was far and above the best of the beverages. Its antioxidant potency surpassed those of red wine, grape juice, blueberry juice and cranberry juice.
The Health Benefits of Pomegranateâ€™s Antioxidant Properties
Preliminary studies have shown that antioxidants present in pomegranate juice or extract of pomegranate are able to reduce factors that contribute to heart disease including the oxidation of LDL or low density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol).
In one study, pomegranate juice inhibited the oxidation of LDL by as much as 90%.
Another study involving some hypertensive patients showed that pomegranate juice (taken for 2 weeks) was sufficient to reduce systolic blood pressure.
Other studies have also confirmed or are investigating the benefits of pomegranate juice in the treatment of various diseases including diabetes, common cold and prostate cancer. The antibacterial property of pomegranate extract is used in the prevention and treatment of dental plaque.
The Dangers of Using Fruit Juice as Antioxidant Source
Antioxidants are important in the body and without them the body soon loses control of all the toxins produced as byproducts of biochemical reactions or introduced to the body.
By mopping up harmful free radicals especially oxidative species, antioxidants serve as the basic protector of the body.
Toxins introduced to the body may come from the environment, natural radiation from sunlight or manmade radiation from special tanning lamps, household chemicals, drugs, cigarettes etc. Whatever the source of these toxins, they slowly but surely break down the body. They are responsible for premature aging and chronic inflammation like the kind that causes rheumatoid arthritis.
Antioxidants from foods are important to supplement the ones naturally produced in the body.
However, taking pomegranate juice (or indeed, any fruit juice) to bulk up the antioxidant levels in the body may turn out to be counterproductive. The simple reason for this is sugars.
Fruit juices are packed full of sugars including fructose which is easily converted to fat. In fact, a glass of fruit juice is usually equivalent to eight teaspoonful of sugar.
Pomegranate contains 19 g of carbohydrate per 100 g of fruit and 14 g of this amount of carbohydrate is represented by sugars. These sugars give pomegranate juice its taste, and weight for weight, they are the most abundant component of the fruit.
Therefore, the sugar levels of fruit juices (including pomegranate) can do more harm than good because the body responds to more sugar with more insulin. Constantly keeping insulin levels high is the chief cause of insulin resistance and type II diabetes.
When we think of harmful sugars, we are tempted to think that only sugary beverages like soda drinks are to blame. Fruit juices contain just about the same levels of sugar as soft drinks. Even though they are natural products, they are by no means safer.
Sugary beverages (whether natural fruit juices or processed soft drinks) are directly responsible for the weight problem affecting the population. They increase blood sugar levels as well as insulin secretion and then they cause insulin resistance. And insulin resistance is one of the root causes of the metabolic disorder that leads to rheumatoid arthritis.
Therefore, although pomegranate juice may look great for your arthritis because of its antioxidant content, it can also be bad because of its sugar content.
This means that you should avoid drinking fruit juices too often or in large quantities. Instead, opt for an alternative antioxidant source.
Avoid or considerably cut your pomegranate intake if you are overweight or have any of these conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and yeast infections.
Alternative Antioxidant Sources
Besides fruits and fruit juices, there are other sources of antioxidants. The most prominent natural sources of antioxidants are vegetables. However, you should make sure to buy and consume your vegetables fresh.
The longer vegetables take between the farm and grocery store, the less its nutritional value. Therefore, as much as possible buy locally harvested vegetables.
Supplements can also increase the antioxidant store of the body. Vitamins C and E are especially great antioxidants just as minerals such as selenium.
Dietary Changes to Help Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis
A little pomegranate juice may help increase the amount of antioxidants you take, however, treating rheumatoid arthritis by making diet is as much what you eat as what you avoid.
To prevent the recurrence of chronic inflammation that may cause or worsen rheumatoid arthritis, you should eliminate sugars, processed foods and most grains from your diet. In their place, add more unprocessed, organic and freshly harvested foods.
In addition, you should strive to eat as much raw food as possible. This is because the processes involved in food preparation deplete the natural store of nutrients in foods. For example, heats denature proteins, and destroys enzymes while the simple process of boiling may leach away essential minerals and vitamins.
Other important foods you should add to your diet include coconut oil to replace your cooking oil (the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil has been proven to be the most healthy fats to consume) and animal-based omega-3 fatty acids such as the one found in krill oil.
Herbal Extracts for Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Herbal extracts, especially those that contain high levels of antioxidants and those with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals are excellent remedies for joint inflammation and can help relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Some of the herbal extracts proven to help in this regard are:
- Ginger â€“ has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It can be steeped as tea or blended into a juice
- Boswellia â€“ contains boswellic acid which is known to inhibit the pro-inflammatory factors released in the body
- Turmeric â€“ acts similarly to ginger
For an overview of natural arthritis remedies click here.
An effective rheumatoid arthritis treatment protocol is to combine all the natural remedies known to reduce the inflammation and pain associated with the disease.
Such remedies include select vitamins, minerals, herbal extracts, nutritional supplements and other specific remedies such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid and type II collagen. Since there are more than a few supplements that may help, the best approach is to take a nutritional supplement such as Exomine RH which combines the best from each class of these remedies.