Activation of these receptors has been shown to block the development of inflammatory and metabolic disease including type II diabetes and obesity.
Let us find in detail what PUA is and how it expresses its effects.
Conjugated linolenic acids (CLnAs) or conjugated triene fatty acids (found in seed oils of some plants) have recently kindled interest because of their apparent fat burning abilities (Bassaganya-Riera, Guri, & Hontecillas, 2011). Additionally, these are also being touted as ‘health-enhancing’.
Some examples of these unusual fatty acids are punicic acid (PUA), jacaric acid (JAA), catalpic acid (CAA) and eleostearic acids (ESA).
All of these exhibit health benefits by stimulating the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) – activation of these receptors has been shown to block pathogenetic pathways of (and therefore prevent) a number of inflammatory and metabolic disease including type II diabetes and obesity (Bassaganya-Riera et al., 2011).
Punicic acid found in high concentrations in pomegranate seeds is one such conjugated fatty acid.
Pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub belonging to the Punicaceae family (Viladomiu, Hontecillas, Lu, & Bassaganya-Riera, 2013; Lansky & Newman, 2007). Originally belonging to the Himalayas in Northern India, it is now cultivated in most parts of the world (Viladomiu et al., 2013).
The pomegranate fruit is a large berry which can be divided into 3 parts: seeds, juice and the peel. The whole of the fruit is supposed to contain chemicals which have medicinal properties.
Since ancient times, extracts derived from different parts of the pomegranate fruit have been used in treating several medical conditions: infections, diarrhoeas, ulcers, haemorrhage and respiratory illnesses (Naqvi, Khan, & Vohora, 1976; Caceres, Giron, Alvarado, & Torres, 1987). In more recent times, pomegranate extract is recommended for hormone replacement therapy and to treat immune suppression and cardiovascular disease (de et al., 2007).
Additionally, it is also believed to possess antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antitumor activities (Viladomiu et al., 2013; Jurenka, 2008; Caceres et al., 1987; Naqvi et al., 1976; Lansky & Newman, 2007). These properties are currently being intensively researched (Viladomiu et al., 2013).
Pomegranate also has one of the highest antioxidant activity profile compared to other fruits (Viladomiu et al., 2013).
Notwithstanding these amazing benefits of pomegranate extract, its ability to cause body-weight reduction has led to immense popularity, particularly in the US (Johanningsmeier & Harris, 2011).
Not surprisingly then, some researchers have gone to the extent of labelling pomegranate as a “potential nutraceutical and a functional food” (Viladomiu et al., 2013; Johanningsmeier & Harris, 2011).
The most active biochemical in pomegranate extract is punicic acid (PUA). It is also known by another name: trichosanic acid. Chemically, it is a conjugated triene fatty acid which – as stated earlier – occurs in high concentrations in pomegranate seeds (Bassaganya-Riera et al., 2011). 64-83 of PUA is made up of pomegranate seed oil (PSO) (Bassaganya-Riera et al., 2011; Kaufman & Wiesman, 2007).
Additionally, pomegranate seeds also contain other acids like JAA, CAA and ESA in smaller quantities.
As stated earlier, PUA in combination with JAA, CAA and ESA stimulate the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) in various organ-systems. The activation of these receptors blocks the development of metabolic diseases (including type II diabetes mellitus and obesity). There is ample proof that Oral supplementation with PUA normalizes fasting blood glucose levels and reverses insulin resistance (Viladomiu et al., 2013; Bassaganya-Riera et al., 2011; Hontecillas, O’Shea, Einerhand, DiGuardo, & Bassaganya-Riera, 2009).
Some of the mechanisms involved are:
Fasting blood glucose levels normalization and the insulin-sensitizing effects of PUA means that PUA is now increasing being looked upon as a potential ‘anti-diabetic’ agent.
Although standard doses for oral supplementation with pomegranate have not been defined, its use seems to be quite safe. Animal studies for testing acute toxicity for pomegranate have proved the safety (Bassaganya-Riera et al., 2011; Meerts et al., 2009).
Although, the “fat-burning abilities” of pomegranate seeds have not been subjected to too much research, the small number of studies conducted do seem to support the claim. Add to that the fact that PUA (the active principle in pomegranate seeds) ameliorates diabetes and other metabolic diseases and that it is quite safe to use, supplementing with pomegranate seeds for weight-loss is not totally unwarranted.
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