Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Power in pomegranates

Seems that food can be an addictive drug… but it can also be a medicine.

This study recently showed that phytochemicals in the seeds of pomegranates may block aromatase, the enzyme that converts androgen to estrogen. This is the same function of aromatase inhibitor drugs (Aromasin, Femara, and Arimidex) which many breast cancer patients take in order to stop estrogen from feeding tumor growth.

Obviously, pomegranates are not going to be replacing aromatase inhibitors anytime soon... but this may eventually have some implications for other estrogen-related processes (such as menopausal symptoms, bone density, and cancer prevention). 

We already know pomegranates are chock-full of antioxidants, but now research suggests they may have properties similar to aromatase inhibitor drugs by blocking the synthesis of estrogen.


  1. I really enjoy reading your blog. As you know, I tend to be pretty skeptical, and I recently found this large study that seems to downplay the role veggies have in reducing the risk of cancer. The link is here: http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/djq072

    I am interested in your response. I think an interpretation that keeps in line with your approach to food would be this: while a high-veggie diet may not be cancer-protective by itself, perhaps a high-veggie, low-meat diet is. In other words, you have to keep out the carcinogenic food out order to realize the potential benefits of the veggies.

    I also appreciate your occasional comments about the importance of pushing for new ideas, against the cultural standard. It is difficult, and I know that I am more demanding of new ideas/philosophies than I am of old, established ones.

    I'm curious about the role of faith and reason in your own approach to health, food, and changing habits. Would you say you "know" that yoga is good for you, or do you "believe" that yoga is good for you? Do you think a scientific study could ever convince you that yoga is actually bad for people? (I don't think it is, but I know that it is very hard for many people to accept evidence that contradicts their deeply held beliefs.)

  2. Hi Mike,

    I really appreciate your comments - thank you!

    Yes, that large prospective study found a very small reduced risk of cancer associated with increased fruit and vegetable intake. You make the good point that they don't mention meat consumption - I would love to see that data! I'd also like to see data on dairy. Fruits and veggies can only do so much if we don't minimize the causes of cancer in the first place.

    To answer your question about the role of beliefs: I like to think about this using the distinction between "meditative" and "calculative" medicine (if interested, see my previous post that discusses this more: http://prescribingyoga.blogspot.com/2009/12/meditative-medicine-new-distinction.html)

    To me, meditative medicine provides a better framework for understanding why I practice yoga and why I am a vegetarian. I don't know if these can really be studied using the calculative model... and I'm not sure that results from randomized controlled trials would even significantly change people's "meditative" medical behaviors.

  3. Thank you so much for your reply and your link to your old post. I had never read it, and I really connect with the meditative and calculative approaches to medicine. I think this will help a tremendous amount as I go into psychiatry, a field that basically deals with finding meaning and happiness in life. Also, the meatless monday idea is incredible! Have you heard about Jamie Oliver, the British celebrity chef who has a new show on tv (and hulu) about remaking the diet of a west virginia school cafeteria? It is really interesting seeing people grapple with the change to a healthier diet.