Could Pomegranates Help Stop Cancer Cells?

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POM Wonderful, maker of pomegranate juice and other pomegranate-containing products, ran afoul of the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission in September for making “false and unsubstantiated” health claims on its products’ labeling.

There’s still no evidence that POM products can prevent heart disease or erectile dysfunction, as the company claimed, but at least one lab study suggests some effect of components of pomegranate juice against prostate cancer cells. (More on Time.com: FTC and FDA to POM: You’re Not So Wonderful)

Working with pomegranate juice, a team of researchers at the University of California-Riverside found that certain ingredients of the juice appeared to inhibit cancer cell movement and to weaken the effect of a protein produced by bone marrow that causes prostate cancer cells to metastasize to the bone. ScienceBlog explained:

The Martins-Green lab applied pomegranate juice on laboratory-cultured prostate cancer cells that were resistant to testosterone (the more resistant a cancer cell is to testosterone, the more prone it is to metastasizing).

The researchers — Martins-Green, graduate student Lei Wang and undergraduate students Andre Alcon and Jeffrey Ho — found that the pomegranate juice-treated tumor cells that had not died with the treatment showed increased cell adhesion (meaning fewer cells breaking away) and decreased cell migration.

Molecular biologist Manuela Martins-Green and her team presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology on Dec. 12. “This is particularly exciting because we can now modify these naturally occurring components of the juice to improve their functions and make them more effective in preventing prostate cancer metastasis,” said Martins-Green in a statement. (More on Time.com: A Healthy Rosh Hashanah: A Sweet New Year, Without the Sugar)

Of course, the bottom line for POM Wonderful is that this study still doesn’t show a causal link between drinking pomegranate juice and cancer prevention.

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