In our house, pomegranates are a family favorite. And now that I’ve reviewed the available research on eating pomegranates for the brain, we’ll definitely be enjoying them more often!
To begin, let’s look at two research efforts published in the July and September 2013 issues of Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (ECAM).
In the first study, UCLA’s Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience Dr. Susan Bookheimer Ph.D.’s team randomly split their 28 volunteers into two groups.
One group drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily for four weeks. While the other group drank a flavor-matched placebo beverage. Placebo Pomegranate Juice contains 0% juice.
At the beginning and end of the intervention month, both groups had blood samples taken. They also underwent memory and cognitive testing accompanied by brain scans.
How did the two groups’ follow-up test scores measure up to their first ones? These graphs show that one set declined, while the other improved significantly.
Who improved? After drinking just 1 cup of juice daily for a month, only the group getting real pomegranate juice improved their verbal memory test scores.
During the testing, their brain scans revealed increased brain activity, and their post-intervention blood tests indicated higher antioxidant levels.
Pomegranates really do make a difference with cognitive performance. If you don’t see that from the graphs above, may I suggest, pomegranate juice?
Pomegranates for the Brain of Heart Patients
In the second ECAM-published research, Susan A. Ropacki, Ph.D. of Veterans Affairs to Palo Alto performed a pilot study on ten Loma Linda International Heart institute heart-surgery patients.
Starting one week before and continuing until six weeks following their surgeries, five of the patients took a pomegranate pill every morning and evening. The remaining ones took placebos.
All ten underwent a battery of memory tests before taking their first pills, and again two and six weeks after their surgeries. The tests measured:
- working memory
- immediate memory
- delayed memory
And once again, the pomegranate group’s scores improved on both the two-and six-week testing while the placebo group’s scores declined!
Admittedly, the test group contained only ten people. I’ve carried out bigger studies at my dining table.
Pomegranates for the Brain of Stroke Patients
In October of 2019, the Nutritional Neuroscience journal published the results of a randomized trial from Brown University researcher John A. Bellone, Ph.D., and a team of Loma Linda University researchers.
Their study included 16 inpatients recovering from strokes that occurred two weeks earlier. For one week, eight of them received placebos. Again, only 16 people were used in the study. It can’t be easy to recruit people right after a health scare like that. “Sorry to hear about your stroke. Have you heard of pomegranate juice?” That’s a difficult sell.
The other eight received pomegranate pills with a polyphenol content equaling that of an 8-ounce pomegranate juice serving.
After performing neuropsychological testing on both groups, the researchers concluded:
“Pomegranate-treated subjects demonstrated more neuropsychological and functional improvement and spent less time in the hospital than placebo controls.”
Eat Pomegranates for the Brain at Any Age
A randomized controlled trial from UCLA Medical School, the third study sought to understand how longer-term pomegranate consumption affects memory in middle-aged and elderly adults.
Published in the January 2020 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the 1-year trial included 261 adults between 50 and 75.
The researchers randomly assigned them to drink 8 ounces of pomegranate juice or a placebo each day for the entire year. 261 adults drinking daily cups for a year comes to nearly 100,000 cups. These are proper numbers for a study.
All participants underwent cognitive testing before and following the trial. While the pomegranate juice group’s scores didn’t fluctuate significantly over the year, the placebo group showed a significant decline.
The UCLA researchers concluded, “Daily consumption of pomegranate juice may stabilize the ability to learn visual information over a 12-mo period.”
Finally, there’s this remarkable study on pomegranates for the brain development of unborn children. How did they get unborn children to drink juice? They were actually “exposed” to the juice through their mother’s diets.
Harvard Medical School Brigham and Women’s Hospital research assistant Madeline M. Ross led a randomized controlled trial looking specifically at unborn babies diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).
Each day, from the time they enrolled in the study until they gave birth, the study’s 99 expectant mothers drank either 8 ounces of pomegranate juice or a placebo.
Fifty-seven of the newborns underwent MRIs. The results, published in the February 2021 Journal of Scientific Reports, led the researchers to observe:
“We report decreased brain injury risk in IUGR infants exposed to pomegranate juice compared with placebo.”
Whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in the middle, your brain’s health depends on a steady supply of healthy foods.
Strong research supports including pomegranates in a brain-boosting diet, so it’s time to add them to the grocery list!
Maybe once we’ve saved everybody’s cognitive functions we can use that power to figure out how to get these seeds out more easily?