Forgot about that appointment, or can’t remember where you put the [insert important item here]? Unfortunately, due to oxidative damage and inflammation in the brain, mild forgetfulness and memory loss can begin as early as age forty-five. As we grow older and the effects increase, memory loss can go from an annoyance to a significant problem that affects quality of life. Fortunately, pomegranate juice can help put the brakes on memory loss.
Pomegranate Juice Memory Study
The juice of those jewel-toned arils are rich in ellagitannin polyphenols, which have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
In a pilot study of 23 subjects (aged 50–75 years) who had mild memory complaints associated with aging, researchers found that drinking 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily for one month both improved memory performance and altered brain neural activity in comparison to a control group drinking a taste-matched placebo juice without polyphenols.
But they wanted to know the long-term effects of pomegranate juice on memory, so they conducted a new one-year study. This time it was a randomized, double-blind, 2-group parallel design, so nobody knew who was drinking the real pomegranate juice or the placebo.
Roughly half of the healthy middle-aged and older adult study participants consumed 8 ounces of pomegranate juice with all its wonderful and varied polyphenols. The other half of the group drank a placebo drink that had the flavor, color, sugar, and acidity level of the juice, but none of the polyphenols.
At the beginning of the study, baseline cognitive scores were taken. They used two memory tests, the Brief Visuospatial Memory Test-Revised (BVMT-R) and the Buschke Selective Reminding Test (SRT.)
In the BVMT-R test, participants are tested on visual learning and recall. They are shown 6 geometric designs for 10 seconds, then asked to draw on a separate page as many of the designs as possible in their correct location. They are also given a Delayed Recall test where they have to try and remember the shapes and locations after a 25-min delay.
The Buschke SRT is a standardized test for verbal memory. The test subject is told 12 unrelated words, who is then asked to immediately recall as many words as possible.
These tests were run at the beginning of the study, and then at 6 months and 12 months.
How did it turn out?
“Visual memory performance, specifically the ability to learn visual information over repeated learning trials, was shown to be maintained in individuals who drank pomegranate juice compared with a placebo drink . . . pomegranate juice maintains visual memory skills in middle-aged and older adults.”
Those drinking the placebo drink continued to experience a decline in visual memory skills, while those drinking the pomegranate juice maintained the visual memory function they had at the beginning of the one-year study.
How Do Pomegranates Protect Our Brain?
We really aren’t certain, but the study authors put forward several likely scenarios.
Urolithins, produced by gut bacteria from pomegranate polyphenols, are able to cross the blood-brain barrier (something the polyphenols themselves are unable to do.)” These pomegranate metabolites could have an impact on memory neural circuits.”
Pomegranates have anti-inflammatory effects and may support brain health by reducing inflammation in the brain.
Pomegranate juice may improve blood flow to the brain in regions that control memory. This is possible because patients with heart disease that drank pomegranate juice for a year had reduced clogging in the carotid arteries compared with a control group, where the blockage increased.
Whatever the mechanism, polyphenol-rich foods like pomegranates and pomegranate juice should be consumed regularly – even daily – for maximum heart and brain benefits.
Here’s a delicious pomegranate juice recipe from the Brain Health chapter in my juice recipe book.
Pomegranate-Blackberry Delight Juice Recipe
Page 38, The Complete Juicing Recipe Book
Brain Health, Heart Health, Digestion Support
1 cup blackberries, fresh or thawed if frozen
1 pomegranate, stem and peel removed (or sub 1/2 cup reconstituted freeze-dried pomegranate juice powder)
4 large celery ribs
Cut the produce to fit your juicing machine’s feed tube. Start with lemon, berries and pomegranate and finish with celery. Enjoy!
More on Pomegranates:
Sparkling Pomegranate Citrus Sipper