By Bob Condor

The pomegranate is enjoying one healthy run. The ancient fruit, which grows wild from Iran to India, is getting plenty of attention from California growers who have cultivated the plant and from juice companies and brands—“Pom” is most notable—capitalizing on the pomegranate’s potential health benefits.

Research first appeared from Israel, which is well regarded for its nutrition academics. Scientists from other countries have followed suit to offer encouraging study results about the deep red, seed-heavy fruit. Here are some of the most results to date about pure pomegranate juice and pomegranate extract:

– Compounds in pomegranate extract have stopped or delayed formation of prostate cancer tumors in mice

At least one study says pomegranate consumption can reduce risk for breast cancer.

Prevents LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) from oxidization, which is believed to be the first step of heart disease. Other research indicates pomegranate juice can thin the blood and prevent clots, similar to aspirin.

Another study connected eight daily ounces of pomegranate juice with increasing the amount of oxygen available to the heart muscle.

At least one study shows long-term consumption of pomegranate juice can help protect against erectile dysfunction.

The newest study, just to press this month in the professional Journal of Inflammation, provides more evidence that pomegranate extract can significantly reduce chronic inflammation, which is of course an unfortunate mainstay of autoimmune disorders and osteoarthritis among others, but also is increasingly linked with heart disease. Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, who first reported on the fruit’s deterrent effect on inflammation and enzymes that otherwise break down cartilage in 2005, say new findings make an even stronger case.

The 2005

study was conducted on human tissue samples in the lab. The new study involved feeding the fruit extract orally to rabbits who were experiencing inflammatory conditions. When the Case Western scientists reported in 2005, they made it clear they did yet know if the pomegranate’s compound would make it past the gut and into the bloodstream.

The 2008 study proves ingestion produces the anti-inflammatory action, and that’s no small thing. Case Western scientists recorded that antioxidant levels were way up in blood samples taken after the rabbits drank pomegranate extract as compared to before the pomegranate extract. What’s more, the proteins associated with inflammation were substantially less in the “after” than the “before.”

One caveat: Some studies suggest that pomegranate juice might disrupt the action of certain medications, especially blood pressure drugs, similar to the widely reported blocking effect of grapefruit juice.

Nutritionists who advise clients to seek more whole and natural foods are always concerned about whether clients are adequately absorbing all the healthful substances in, say, fruits and veggies and grains. This study is another point in the plus column for the pomegranate but perhaps even more so for showing the fresh plant foods we consume are on a direct freeway to our bloodstreams and cells.

Read more on ED, Heart problems, and/or inflammation.

“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing . He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer . He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors' Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.”