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No, pomegranate juice alone won’t prevent heart disease – try exercise and healthy diet

A graphic circulating on Facebook claims that pomegranate juice has multiple powerful health benefits, including preventing heart disease. 

Text in the graphic claims that pomegranate juice “is proven to unclog arteries … as well as lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease due to phytochemical compounds that reduce LDL cholesterol formation and high blood pressure”. 

One post sharing the graphic was viewed over 146,000 times since publication on 4 February 2022. 

Could pomegranate juice really keep heart disease – the leading cause of death globally – at bay? We looked into it. 

Pomegranate_Incorrect

Cholesterol and blood pressure levels linked to heart disease

Heart disease can refer to a range of different ailments that affect the cardiovascular system, which includes the heart and blood vessels. Many of these diseases are related to high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

When there is too much of one type of cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol – in your blood, it can build up on the walls of your arteries and, over time, narrow or “clog” them. 

This makes it harder for blood to travel around the body. If the supply of blood to a part of the heart is blocked completely, it can cause a stroke or a heart attack

High blood pressure puts strain on your arteries, making them less elastic and eventually reducing blood flow to the heart. Both high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol contribute to heart disease. 

Some, but not enough, evidence

There has been a great deal of research into the role that some ingredients in the pomegranate fruit might play in cardiovascular health. 

These ingredients are often referred to as phytochemicals – compounds in fruits and vegetables that could potentially provide health benefits.  

One scientific review, combining the results from many studies, suggested that pomegranate juice affected particular biological processes that might in turn help lower blood pressure and partly reduce the negative impacts of LDL cholesterol. 

But more research is needed to explore these potential benefits. 

South African Heart Association ‘can’t endorse pomegranate’

Africa Check asked the South African Heart Association (SA Heart) about the evidence currently available. They cautioned that while some research seems promising, it “cannot be compared to the scientific rigour that is applied to pharmaceutical interventions that are the standard of care in clinical medicine”. 

SA Heart said they “can therefore not endorse pomegranate [juice] to reduce mortality or major cardiovascular events”.

There is not enough evidence to suggest pomegranate juice can unclog arteries, lower blood pressure or reduce LDL cholesterol, preventing heart disease. 

Many research-supported interventions prevent heart disease 

The good news is that various medicines have been rigorously studied and approved to control blood pressure and cholesterol, and thereby prevent heart disease. 

Non-pharmaceutical measures are also important, including diet. While a single change in diet like adding pomegranate juice may not be effective, eating a diet high in fibre and low in sugar, salt, and some kinds of fats and cholesterol can help lower your risk of heart disease. 

Reducing alcohol consumption and not smoking have also been shown to be key to preventing heart disease. Eating a generally healthy diet and exercising regularly are the best non-pharmaceutical ways to reduce your risk. You can find out more about preventing heart disease here.

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