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Sure, pomegranate compounds have potential; so do many foods

January 5, 2010 |  4:45 pm

Pomegranates If you're on the lookout for food news you can use, you may have seen the latest headlines about pomegranates and breast cancer:

Pomegranates May Fight Breast Cancer, Pomegranate Compounds May Ease Breast Cancer RiskPomegranates Can Help With Cancer ....

But keep in mind that the findings on which these headlines are based come from lab work, not from people, not even from animals. It's true that some of the compounds within pomegranates seem  promising (although "can help" seems a bit of a stretch at this point), but much, much research remains before broad assumptions about pomegranates should be made.

Here's the abstract of the study, published in Cancer Prevention Research. And the news release.

As the researchers, from City of Hope in Duarte and from UCLA, point out: "These studies suggest that pomegranate ET [ellagitannins]-derived compounds have potential for the prevention of estrogen-responsive breast cancers."

Considering the marketing conducted after a few early resveratrol studies, that cautious word seems worth repeating: "potential."

Oh, resveratrol? Let's take a look at what those early studies wrought ....

Staff writer Melissa Healy wrote recently: "In the blinking come-ons of some resveratrol pitches and in the subtext and testimonials of others, remarkable claims for resveratrol supplements abound: They will forestall or prevent such age-related scourges as cancer, diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer's disease; they will restore vitality, endurance and strength to the middle aged and older; they will make aging brains sharper and more agile. But the business of selling the supplement touted as an "anti-aging miracle" rests on a foundation of science that is as unstable and incomplete as it is promising....

"In fact, the marketing frenzy surrounding resveratrol is a prime example of how science can be distorted when it is mingled with hope, amplified for buzz and spun for profit."

Read the full story: If red wine's good, are resveratrol pills even better?

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Left to their own devices, individual humans likely would consume how many pomegranates? (Know where we're heading here? Yep. Eat a balanced diet -- with plenty of phytochemical-laden vegetables and fruits.) Credit: Associated Press