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The Pomegranate: Nature’s Way to Help your Knees

The Pomegranate: Nature’s Way to Help your Knees

September 30, 2005   By: Jennifer Jope for Knee1 Pomegranates may stain your hands red and be tough to eat, but the results of a new study may prove that it is well worth it. Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland found that pomegranate fruit extracts can block enzymes that contribute to osteoarthritis.
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Is that ache or pain a sign of early arthritis? Look for these warning signs:

Steady or intermittent pain in a joint

Stiffness in a joint after getting out of bed or sitting for a long time

Swelling or tenderness in one or more joints

A crunching feeling or the sound of bone rubbing on bone

Hot, red or tender? It may not be osteoarthritis. Check with your doctor about other causes, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Pain? Not necessarily. Only one-third of people whose x-rays show evidence of osteoarthritis report pain or other symptoms.
Osteoarthritis is considered the most common type of arthritis. According to the Mayo Clinic Web site, it affects almost 21 million people in the United States. The disease is characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage and may affect any joint in the body, including in the fingers, hips, knees, lower back and feet. The study done by Case looked at the ability of an extract of pomegranate fruit to fight against Interleukin-1b, a pro-inflammatory protein molecule that plays a significant role in cartilage degradation in osteoarthritis. Because current treatments for osteoarthritis have proven to have limited effectiveness, this study is good news for everyone looking to avoid the pain of arthritis. “This has generated considerable interest in the identification and development of new approaches and reagents to treat and inhibit, if not abolish, the progress of the disease,” said Dr. Tariq M. Haqqi, professor of medicine at Case. Many arthritis sufferers currently use creams and ointment pain relievers or Acetaminophen to lessen the pain and swelling associated with the disease. Using tissue samples of human cartilage affected by osteoarthritis, researchers added a water extract of pomegranate fruit to the culture using a well-established in vitro model. The findings showed a new activity for pomegranate fruit extract – cartilage protection – in addition to its previously discovered antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. According to the study, the protein molecules create an overproduction of inflammatory molecules including tightly regulated enzymes necessary for tissue remodeling. When overproduced in a disease state, they degrade the cartilage resulting in joint damage and destruction. The study reveals that pomegranate fruit extracts stall the overproduction of the tightly-regulated enzymes in human cartilage cells. Even before the study’s positive results, pomegranates – which are native in lands from Iran to the Himalayas in Northern India – have risen in popularity recently. Like other fruits, juice can be extracted from pomegranates. In fact, many grocery stores sell juices like POM Wonderful, which is 100 percent pomegranate juice, touting its antioxidant benefits. In the Case study, Haqqi pointed out that many arthritis sufferers have tried to find other ways to alleviate their symptoms “Arthritis is one of the foremost diseases for which patients seek herbal or nontraditional medicine treatments,” Haqqi said. “However, all the extracts and herbs have not yet been scientifically evaluated for their efficacy and safety. Indeed, some of them may even interfere with the current treatments. Therefore, careful use of supplements and herbal medicines during early stages of disease or treatment may be made to limit the disease progression.” The Mayo Clinic lists several alternatives that arthritis sufferers have used to decrease their pain, such as acupuncture, wearing copper jewelry, homeopathy and magnets. Case noted that there is still more research to be done. More studies will need to be conducted to determine the absorption rate of pomegranate fruit extracts in the joints. Future research will likely include animal model studies on osteoarthritis to determine if the extract promotes cartilage repair and whether it is effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis.
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