Pomegranates could be a fruity way to better health

People's Pharmacy

April 13, 2003|By Joe Graedon & Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon & Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

I have read that pomegranate juice has health benefits, but I haven't been able to find any. Would you get the same benefits by eating pomegranates, which I love?

You might get some benefit from eating the whole fruit. Another reader who had trouble finding juice discovered that after eating pomegranate fruit, her cholesterol went down.

Although there is no research to prove that pomegranate lowers cholesterol, it reduces the oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol, which contributes to artery-clogging plaque.

Investigators also have found that this biblical fruit contains compounds that cut down the risk of blood clots and lower blood pressure. Pomegranate might also discourage the development of breast cancer.

Much of this research has been done in Israel, where pomegranates are more readily available. Juice should be available in Middle Eastern markets and many health food stores.

Do those herbal pills advertised to increase the bustline really work? I'm in my mid-50s, but look and feel like I'm 39. When I lose weight, though, my bust goes flat.

These pills are expensive, and you have to take them for quite a while before you can expect results. I'd like to know I'm not wasting my money.

We turned to ConsumerLab.com for an answer. The group tests dietary supplements to determine which products live up to their claims. These experts found "no evidence to support the effective use of dietary supplements for breast enhancement."

Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone might make breasts larger by stimulating breast tissue, but such products might also increase the risk of breast cancer. Until well-controlled studies of natural breast-enlargement products are published, we cannot endorse their use.

My husband's cholesterol levels used to run between 240 and 260. After he was put on Lipitor, his reading dropped to around 170. But he has developed pain and tingling in his legs and it has also affected his libido.

His doctor said it had nothing to do with Lipitor but switched him to Zocor to see if it made a difference. The problems remain.

Could these drugs be responsible? If so, are there other drugs or natural ways to lower cholesterol that wouldn't have these side effects?

Statin drugs like Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Zocor (simvastatin) have been linked to polyneuropathy, or nerve damage leading to numbness, pain or tingling (Neurology, May 2002). A systematic review also concluded that such cholesterol-lowering drugs are occasionally associated with erectile dysfunction (Family Practice, February 2002).

Fortunately, there are a number of other options to control cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Exercise and a sensible diet are the first steps to take. Soluble fiber such as psyllium or drugs such as WelChol can also help. Doctors have been prescribing niacin for decades. It requires medical supervision, but should not affect nerves or sexual function.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy.org.

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