What is your favourite superfood?
It seems that every month a new food is being hyped as the next big thing in health.
However, a study published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research shows that pomegranate juice might actually have some health (and exercise?) benefits.
Currently, the primary treatment for prostate cancer is surgery or radiation therapy. Although often effective, a significant number of patients relapse.
Therefore, researchers are searching for additional treatments to battle the disease.
A lot of research suggests that foods rich in phytochemical may reduce the risk of cancer.
Pomegranate fruit is especially rich in various phytochemicals which have shown to be effective in these studies. However, evidence of such health effects in humans was still lacking.
The researchers recruited patients who had previously underwent prostate cancer surgery or radiotherapy.
They only included patients with rising prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, a marker for prostate cancer progression. Thus, these patients were at risk of recurrence.
The patients consumed six to eight ounces (240 ml) of pomegranate juice per day.
The researchers found that pomegranate juice consumption increased the time for PSA to double. This indicates that the speed of disease progression was reduced.
They were not sure about the underlying mechanism. They found that oxidative stress was reduced, which is linked to cancer development through prevention of DNA damage.
They also speculate that nitric oxide might be involved, in which they found a 23% increase. Nitric oxide could slow cancer progression through anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, nitric oxide may trigger cancer cell apoptosis, suicide of cancer cells.
The results suggest that pomegranate juice might be usefull in the treatment of prostate cancer.
However, the researchers note that PSA is just a marker for prostate cancer, so the present results are not conclusive. But they found the results promising and started more extensive research.
I don’t really like the term superfood.
It suggests that a good is super healthy. However, whether something is healthy of not, is highly dependent on context.
The last thing an overweight coach potato should do is binge out on energy dense foods. So a Big Mac is one of the worst things he could eat. An apple, which is a low energy, high micronutrient dense food, would be a better choice.
However, for someone almost starving to death, getting as much calories as possible is a issue of life and dead. The Big Mac would be the life saver here.
Now let’s talk about the study.
Usually, superfoods are hyped based on research on surrogate markers. It is speculated that such marker (DNA damage for example) is a risk factor for one or more diseases (e.g. cancer).
So if a study repots a food to reduce DNA damage, the food will be claimed to protect cancer and all other diseases DNA damage might play a role in.
Often, such claims are proven false in future research. Then a new food is hyped as the next big thing and the cycle repeats.
What is cool about this study, is that and actual relevant outcome was measured. Pomegranate Juice actually slowed prostate cancer recurrance.
So does this make Pomegranate juice a superfood?
Well who knows. At this point it’s just to early to tell. This small study is not enough to draw strong conclusions and the health effect is very specific and may not be relevant to most people.
On another note, the results indicated that pomegranate juice increased nitric oxide. Therefore, pomegranate juice may help overcome anabolic resistance and improve endurance exercise. Furtermore, it may boost muscle pump and growth, in contrast to arginine.
I want to know what you think.
- What is your favourite superfood?
- What do you think about the term ‘superfood’? Useless marketing term or useful to classify foods as generally healthy?
- Do you have any experience with pomegranate juice and exercise? Did you notice an increase in pump or endurance?