Do Pomegranate Contents Really Cause Fat Loss?

Pomegranate seeds contain punicic acid (PUA) in high concentrations. This acid, along with other present in smaller amounts – jacaric acid (JAA), catalpic acid (CAA) and eleostearic acids (ESA) – exhibit health benefits by stimulating the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) in the human body.

PomegranateActivation 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.

The Pomegranate

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).

What is Punicic acid and how does it act?

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:

  • Upregulation of PPARs genes in the skeletal muscles and abdominal white tissue (Hontecillas et al., 2009)
  • Suppression of release of inflammatory cytokines like TNF-? 100 (Bassaganya-Riera et al., 2011)
  • Stimulation of a subtype of PPARs called PPAR-? by PUA is reported to exert an anti-inflammatory effect and therefore block the development of obesity (a low-grade systemic inflammation is believed to be the cause of obesity) (Hontecillas et al., 2009)

Other uses of Pomegranate

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.

Adverse Effects Associated with use of Pomegranate

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).

Our Verdict on Pomegranate for Fat-loss

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.

Reference List

  • Bassaganya-Riera, J., Guri, A. J., & Hontecillas, R. (2011). Treatment of Obesity-Related Complications with Novel Classes of Naturally Occurring PPAR Agonists. J Obes, 2011, 897894
  • Caceres, A., Giron, L. M., Alvarado, S. R., & Torres, M. F. (1987). Screening of antimicrobial activity of plants popularly used in Guatemala for the treatment of dermatomucosal diseases. J Ethnopharmacol., 20, 223-237.
  • de, N. F., Balestrieri, M. L., Williams-Ignarro, S., D’Armiento, F. P., Fiorito, C., Ignarro, L. J. et al. (2007). The influence of pomegranate fruit extract in comparison to regular pomegranate juice and seed oil on nitric oxide and arterial function in obese Zucker rats. Nitric.Oxide., 17, 50-54.
  • Hontecillas, R., O’Shea, M., Einerhand, A., DiGuardo, M., & Bassaganya-Riera, J. (2009). Activation of PPAR gamma and alpha by punicic acid ameliorates glucose tolerance and suppresses obesity-related inflammation. J Am Coll.Nutr., 28, 184-195.
  • Johanningsmeier, S. D. & Harris, G. K. (2011). Pomegranate as a functional food and nutraceutical source. Annu.Rev Food Sci.Technol., 2, 181-201.
  • Jurenka, J. S. (2008). Therapeutic applications of pomegranate (Punica granatum L.): a review. Altern.Med Rev, 13, 128-144.
  • Kaufman, M. & Wiesman, Z. (2007). Pomegranate oil analysis with emphasis on MALDI-TOF/MS triacylglycerol fingerprinting. J Agric.Food Chem., 55, 10405-10413.
  • Lansky, E. P. & Newman, R. A. (2007). Punica granatum (pomegranate) and its potential for prevention and treatment of inflammation and cancer. J Ethnopharmacol., 109, 177-206.
  • Meerts, I. A., Verspeek-Rip, C. M., Buskens, C. A., Keizer, H. G., Bassaganya-Riera, J., Jouni, Z. E. et al. (2009). Toxicological evaluation of pomegranate seed oil. Food Chem.Toxicol., 47, 1085-1092.
  • Naqvi, S. A., Khan, M. S., & Vohora, S. B. (1976). Antibacterial, antifungal and anthelmintic studies on Ochrocarpus longifolius. Planta Med, 29, 98-100.
  • Viladomiu, M., Hontecillas, R., Lu, P., & Bassaganya-Riera, J. (2013). Preventive and prophylactic mechanisms of action of pomegranate bioactive constituents. Evid.Based.Complement Alternat.Med, 2013, 789764.

Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.

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