From Washington, D.C., at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience
Drinking pomegranate juice has been linked to a host of positive health effects, such as reduced risks of heart disease and cancer. Researchers may soon add another benefit to drinking the deep-red drink: slowing progression of Alzheimer's disease.
Richard Hartman of Loma Linda (Calif.) University and his colleagues worked with mice that were genetically predisposed to develop Alzheimer's-like symptoms, including buildups in the brain of a protein called beta-amyloid. The researchers separated the animals into two groups. Starting at 6 months of age, which is young adulthood in mice, one group had pomegranate-juice concentrate added to its drinking water in amounts that approximated a glass or two of the juice per day for a person. The second group received water without the concentrate but with as much sugar as the juice mix had.
As the mice aged, those receiving pomegranate juice did better in mazes and other tests of learning than did animals that drank the sugar water. When the researchers examined the animals' brains, the pomegranate-juice group had only about 50 percent as many beta-amyloid deposits, or plaques, as the sugar-water group had.
Hartman credits the results to the high concentration of antioxidants in pomegranates. Such substances neutralize damaging molecules called free radicals. Further research will explore whether the juice has a similar effect against Alzheimer's disease in people, he says.
Richard E. Hartman
Loma Linda University
Department of Psychology
Loma Linda, CA 92354