Adding Pomegranate Juice to Statin Treatment May Delay Heart Disease
Combining low-dose statin therapy with pomegranate concentrate (which contains polyphenolic antioxidants and phytosterols) in patients with hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol), may significantly reduce cholesterol levels and hinder oxidation of cholesterol in blood and cells. This is what Professor Michael Aviram and his research team from the Technion’s Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and the Rambam Health Care Campus discovered. Their research was published in January 2014 in the scientific journal Atherosclerosis, and its findings show that the combination of statin and pomegranate concentrate helps delay risk factors affecting the onset of atherosclerosis and its consequences – heart attack or stroke.
The leading risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis (the formation of cholesterol deposits in artery walls that can block blood flowing to the heart and brain) and its outcome – heart attack or stroke, involve both the quantity and the quality of blood cholesterol. “As LDL (low-density lipoprotein or “bad cholesterol”) rises in the blood, and as the quality of cholesterol in the blood decreases (increased cholesterol oxidation), the quicker the development of atherosclerosis.
“Our job is to provide treatment to lower blood cholesterol levels and to delay cholesterol oxidation,” explains Professor Aviram. “Drugs are used to treat high levels of cholesterol in the blood – mainly with statins, which hinders the production of cholesterol in the body and lowers its levels in the blood. Antioxidants, sourced mainly in plants (in fruit and vegetable peels) are used to treat cholesterol oxidation. Although statin therapy effectively lowers cholesterol levels in patients diagnosed with heart and cardiovascular diseases, it has only modest effect on curbing oxidation. Moreover, high doses of statins can lead to side-effects – involving primarily significant muscle pain. We are looking to find a treatment without unwanted side-effects” Aviram said.
“Low doses of statins may prevent side-effects,” adds Professor Aviram, “but low statin doses also decrease its effectiveness at lowering cholesterol levels in the blood. In another study, we found that the addition of phytosterols (cholesterol-like molecules found in fruits and vegetables) can lower blood cholesterol through a natural mechanism different from that of statins – one which naturally hinders cholesterol absorption, thus reducing blood cholesterol levels. However, we observed that phytosterols catalyzes the oxidation of cholesterol, and hence phytosterols should be administered together with effective antioxidants. The pomegranate fruit addresses both the levels of cholesterol and its oxidation rate because it contains both phytosterols (beta sitosterol) , and a most potent antioxidants (punicalagin). Therefore, concentrates of pomegranate juice can delay the oxidation of cholesterol, and in addition, it lowers cholesterol levels (because of the phytosterols it contains), without causing unwanted side-effects reported by patients taking high statin doses.”