Expectant mothers at risk of premature birth may want to consider drinking pomegranate juice, say researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In a mouse study, they found the juice may help infants resist brain injuries from low oxygen and reduced blood flow.

In humans, decreased blood flow and oxygen to the infant brain is linked to premature birth and other irregularities during pregnancy, birth and early development. The phenomenon, which is called hypoxia ischemia, causes brain injury in approximately 2 of every 1,000 full-term human births and in a very high percentage of babies born before 34 weeks of gestation.

When scientists temporarily lowered brain oxygen levels and brain blood flow in newborn mice whose mothers drank water mixed with pomegranate concentrate, their brain tissue loss was reduced by 60% in comparison to mice whose mothers drank sugar water or other fluids.

“Hypoxic ischemic brain injury in newborns is very difficult to treat, and right now there’s very little we can do to stop or reverse its consequences,” explains senior author David Holtzman, MD. “Most of our efforts focus on stopping it when it happens, but if we could treat everyone who’s at risk preventively, we may be able to reduce the impacts of these kinds of injuries.”

Pomegranates contain very high concentrations of polyphenols, substances also found in grapes, red wine, and berries, that scientists have linked to potential neuroprotective and anti-aging effects.

Washington State University, June 28, 2005