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What Are Pomegranate Antioxidants?

Whole and cut pomegranate.
Quinoa pomegranate fennel salad.
Pomegranate seeds.
Glass of pomegranate juice.
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  • Written By: Soo Owens
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 21 April 2014
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Pomegranate antioxidants are one of the primary reasons that people consume this exotic fruit. These antioxidants are called polyphenols, and are thought to aid the body in preventing oxidation processes that could potentially damage cells. The beneficial health effects of pomegranate antioxidants have been observed in laboratory experiments, but their function within the human body is still debated.

An antioxidant is a type of molecule that prevents oxidation within cells. Polyphenol antioxidants are heavily represented in pomegranates. Ellagitannins, one type of polyphenol, comprise the majority of the pomegranate's polyphenol content, however. Once absorbed into the body, the ellagitannins are converted into other chemicals, with unknown properties and effects, within the digestive tract .

Studies suggest that pomegranates are effective in reducing the chances of developing heart disease and cancer. It is not, however, solely the presence of pomegranate antioxidants that accomplishes this. It is far more likely that such health benefits are attributable to the chemical makeup of the pomegranate as a whole and the effect that the total composition of the pomegranate has on the human body.

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The exact effect that antioxidants have on the human body is not clear. Scientists know what processes antioxidants are capable of in vitro, meaning in a controlled laboratory setting. They are uncertain, however, of the precise role that they play in vivo, or within an actual living organism. The persistent problem that scientists face is the inability to follow and measure a specific antioxidant traveling through the body, surrounded by numerous other chemicals and interacting with various processes.

Supposed benefits of pomegranate antioxidants include the prevention of heart disease and cancer. They are also believed to possess anti-aging properties and to promote better health overall. There are numerous other antioxidants that the human body can use, each one reducing potentially harmful oxidation occurrences. Oxidation is a necessary part of cell life, though, so it is important to consume a balanced diet of antioxidant-rich foods along with other nutrients.

Some health food manufacturers have found it more economical to extract the ellagitannins found in pomegranates and to add them to supplements rather than to use actual pomegranate juice. These products sell quickly due to marketing strategies such as the promise of longer life expectancy. Scientific studies, however, have concluded that it is more probable that the fruit’s health benefits are derived from the fruit as a whole and not the antioxidants alone.

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