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Peddling the Pomegranate

Rating

2 Star

Peddling the Pomegranate

Our Review Summary

In nutrition news, it seems as though there is always some fruit or vegetable that has the spotlight for potentially being able to correct all the ills known to man. Pomegranate products have become increasingly available and this article does a nice job of explaining some of the potentially health relevant properties of pomegranate, also explaining that there is not much scientific support for extravagant health claims made. The article then puts pomegranates into perspective; i.e. that they are a good source of antioxidants but that the greatest dietary benefit derives from eating a diet that contains a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

The article mentioned that researchers have been paid by a company that sells pomegranate products to do research into its beneficial properties. It referred to specific studies in which pomegranate was found to have beneficial effects on blood pressure and cholesterol, and on slowing the activity of remaining prostate cancer cells. But the article makes a lot of generally positive statements about anthocyanins and other polyphenols, which may or may not be the molecules responsible for health benefits of pomegranates. These positive statements about anti-oxidants bias the article towards a conclusion that these compounds are beneficial despite the apparently scant literature on human studies. Statements about “heart-protective” and “anti-cancer” effects should only be made in the context of supporting evidence.

While pointing out that one company that sells pomegranate products underwrites the costs of some studies done to explore the health benefits of these products, the story failed to inform the reader whether the two studies mentioned were funded by this company as well. The story also didn’t tell readers where the studies were published. While it could have been informative to include the perspectives of experts in the field of anti-oxidant, free radical, or polyphenolic compounds, this article is basically an op-ed piece.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no mention of the costs of pomegranates or pomegranate containing products or how these costs compare with other fruits and vegetables considered to be similarly rich in anti-oxidants and particularly polyphenolic compounds.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The article states that pomegranates produce cardiovascular benefits through decreased blood pressure (unquantified), decreased oxidation of LDL cholesterol (unquantified), improved coronary blood flow (unquantified), and reduced PSA (unquantified).

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

This article failed to mention any harms or ill-effects that might be associated with ingestion of pomegranate or pomegranate-containing products. There are several case reports of pomegranate allergies in the medical literature.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The article mentioned that researchers have been paid by a company that sells pomegranate products to do research into its beneficial properties. It referred to specific studies in which pomegranate was found to have beneficial effects on blood pressure and cholesterol, and on slowing the activity of remaining prostate cancer cells. But the article makes a lot of generally positive statements about anthocyanins and other polyphenols, which may or may not be the molecules responsible for health benefits of pomegranates. These positive statements about anti-oxidants bias the article towards a conclusion that these compounds are beneficial despite the apparently scant literature on human studies. Statements about “heart-protective” and “anti-cancer” effects should only be made in the context of supporting evidence.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

This article did not contain obvious elements of disease-mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

While pointing out that one company that sells pomegranate products underwrites the costs of some studies done to explore the health benefits of these products, the story failed to inform the reader whether the two studies mentioned were funded by this company as well. The story also didn’t tell readers where the studies were published. While it could have been informative to include material from experts in the field of anti-oxidant, free radical, or polyphenolic compounds, this article is basically an op-ed piece.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Applicable

The article was helpful to point out that the notion that the antioxidants in pomegranates, the anthocyanins, have properties that appear to protect against DNA damage (cancer-protective properties) and inflammation, comes from laboratory research using material in test tubes or animal models. There is no current FDA-approved health claim made for pomegranate beyond the recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption. Although the article discussed the potential for pomegranate to lower blood pressure, or oxidation of LDL cholesterol or growth of remaining prostate cancer cells after treatment, these results were presented as preliminary observations that await further study. There were no overt treatment claims made.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The article mentions that pomegranates are now ‘everywhere’. There has been an increased number of pomegranate-containing products available in grocery stores and other venues. However, the article mentions that there have been few good clinical studies with pomegranates and that the results from those few studies should be followed up with larger, better studies.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

This article discusses the abundance of pomegranate products now available in the market in addition to the fruit in its uNPRocessed form. There were no claims made about the novelty, only that there are many products.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure if the story relied solely or largely on a news release. Then again, no sources are cited except a California company, so it’s not clear what sources were relied on.

Total Score: 3 of 8 Satisfactory

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