Pomegranates are one of the oldest known edible fruits which are gaining a resurgence as an ultra-trendy fruit. It’s an ideal indulgence for those with high blood pressure as pomegranate juice has a powerful blood pressure lowering action. Their fleshy aryls (seed casings) contain a ruby-coloured juice that is unusually rich in antioxidant polyphenols, including a unique group of tannins called punicalagins.
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How pomegranate juice lowers blood pressure
- dilating arteries through effects on nitric oxide (in a similar way to beetroot juice)
- improving the elasticity of artery walls so they perform better at evening out the surges in blood pressure as your heart beats
- blocking the action of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), an enzyme targeted by many drugs prescribed to lower blood pressure
- reducing platelet aggregation to improve blood flow.
Pomegranates are also good sources of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, potassium, magnesium and antioxidant carotenoids, all of which have additional beneficial effects on blood pressure control, cholesterol balance or circulatory health.
Pomegranate juice and blood pressure studies
One of the first studies to assess the effects of pomegranate juice on blood pressure involved 10 people whose hypertension remained uncontrolled, with an average blood pressure of 155/83 mmHg, despite taking an ACE inhibitor (8 patients) or a calcium channel blocker drug (2 patients). After drinking 50ml pomegranate juice twice a day, for 2 weeks, their blood levels of angiotensin II converting enzyme (ACE) fell by an additional 36% in seven out of the ten patients. Overall, their blood pressure reduced by an average of 7/1 mmHg (down to an average reading of 1467/82 mmHg) – a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 5%.
Other researchers have shown that drinking 200 ml of pomegranate juice daily for one year can lower systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 21%. Drinking more than 240 ml of pomegranate juice daily did not seem to reduce blood pressure further.
In a study involving 19 people with narrowing of the carotid artery (stenosis), drinking pomegranate juice every day for 1 year resulted in a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 12% compared with no significant change in a control group not drinking pomegranate juice. What’s more, the thickness of their common carotid artery wall (intima-media thickness) decreased by up to 30% within just 1 year, which is pretty impressive for a nutritional intervention. In the control group who did not drink pomegranate juice, their common carotid artery intima-media thickness continued to increase by 9% during that year.
Other studies have shown a small but statistically significant reduction in blood pressure from drinking pomegranate juice for 4 weeks in 51 healthy women without hypertension of 3.14/2.33 mmHg due to effects on ACE activity.
And in 21 people with relatively well-controlled hypertension (average reading 130.91/80.0 mmHg), consuming 150ml pomegranate juice per day for 2 weeks further lowered blood pressure by an average of 6.36/3.64 mmHg compared with a placebo group who instead drank water.
When the results from 8 different randomised controlled trials were analysed together, the overall effect of drinking pomegranate juice was a significant reduction in blood pressure of 4.96/2.01mmHg, and the scientists concluded that it may be prudent to include pomegranate juice in a heart-healthy diet.
Pomegranate juice and circulatory disease
Many pomegranate antioxidants have a protective effect on the heart and circulation. In 45 people with coronary heart disease and heart pain (angina), drinking 240ml pomegranate juice per day for three months improved blood flow to heart muscle during stress testing, while the heart health of those drinking a placebo juice deteriorated.
It’s not commonly recognised that high blood pressure can increase the risk of men developing erectile dysfunction, but it appears that pomegranate juice may help this, too. In a trial involving 53 males with erectile difficulties, volunteers took either pomegranate juice or a placebo for 4 weeks then, after a ‘wash-out’ period of two weeks, took the other drink for another 4 weeks to compare the results. Of the 42 men reporting improvements in sexual function, 25 improved when taking pomegranate juice and the men were more likely to have improved impotence scores when drinking the pomegranate juice. Further trials are needed to see if further, statistically significant results occur with longer periods of use.
How to add pomegranate juice to your diet
Pomegranate juice is widely available in supermarkets, health food stores and from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Check sugar content as you want unsweetened juice – if this needs sweetening to taste, then use stevia NOT sugar. You can also juice your own pomegranates as shown in the video clip below.
Pomegranate juice safety
While early animal studies suggested that pomegranate juice may have a grapefruit-like effect to reduce the breakdown of some prescribed drugs, this is no longer believed to be the case. Later studies involving human volunteers found no evidence of interactions between pomegranate juice and drugs. If you are on medication for high blood pressure, however, start with a low dose of pomegranate juice and monitor your blood pressure to ensure it does not go too low.
High intakes for prolonged periods of time may cause diarrhoea.
Click here to read 25 Foods that lower blood pressure
Image credit: photovova/bigstock