Pomegranate Seed Oil

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Pomegranate seed oil is one of those oils that has a wide array of documented health benefits. It is prominently studied for its ability to reduce chronic inflammation in the body caused by an overactive immune system, to reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals, to aid in weight loss and most importantly, for diabetes. In skincare realm, it is renowned for its penetration ability and antioxidant power. It keeps our skin healthier and more elastic by preventing degradation of skin cells of the dermis due to free radicals.  

Source

Pomegranate is one of the most beneficial fruits. However, if we juice it, we are missing out on the health benefits provided by its seeds. Turns out, pomegranate seeds contain a very small amount of oil which is rich in an omega-5 fatty acid known as punicic acid. This healthy fat is responsible for a host of powerful health benefits, especially in chronic, difficult to manage syndromes like type-2 diabetes.  

Pomegranate Seed Oil
Pomegranate Seed Oil (Image:Shutterstock)

Best quality oil comes from using pomegranate that is grown organically and the seed is neither high yield variety (HYV) or GM (genetically modified). Seeds are dried and cold pressed to yield virgin pomegranate seed oil. The cold pressed oil retains more phytonutrients than those extracted by solvents (like hexane) or gases (like supercritical Carbon Dioxide).   

Color and Aroma

Cold pressed oil is thick in consistency and looks bright yellow with a shade of golden color. It has a mild fruity aroma. Refined oil products may be without any discernible aroma.  

Properties

Pomegranate seed oil’s impressive array of therapeutic properties.  

  • Antioxidant – It is a much more powerful antioxidant than other commonly used vegetable oils. [1]  
  • Anti-obesity – It slows down accumulation of fatty tissue (adipose) when animals are fed a high fat diet. [2] 
  • Anti-atherogenic – It prevents formation of plaques in arteries that are the primary cause of heart attacks. [3] 
  • Anti-osteoporosis – It prevents loss of bone mineral density in women post menopause. This effect may be attributed to phyto-estrogens in this oil. [4] 
  • Vitality booster for men – Pomegranate oil has shown effectiveness in improving the fertilization capacity of semen in animal studies. This effect can also be translated in humans and thus aid in solving the problem of difficulty of conception that many couples face. [5] 
  • Neuroprotective – Its antioxidant capacity helps to protect our nerve cells (called neurons) from gradual decay caused by free radical damage. It helps in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. [6] 
  • Anti-diabetic – It helps in diabetes via two mechanisms. Firstly, it improves the lipid profile (composition of fats in our blood, namely Total cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides). Secondly, it has a definite insulin boosting action and also increases insulin sensitivity. [7] 

Health Benefits and Uses

Pomegranate Seed Oil for Weight Loss? 

Well, it is not exactly useful to reduce weight but to gain less weight if you are eating a lot of fats. In animal studies, it was found to reduce accumulation of fat when mice were fed a diet rich in fats. Those who were given a high fat diet were compared with those who were given high fat diet but with a small amount of pomegranate seed oil. It was found that rats who were given pomegranate oil weighed around 3 grams less. And all of these 3 grams was caused by a reduction in body fat percentage. [2] 

Pomegranate seed oil can be helpful for athletes who have to be on a high fat diet to undergo the bulking process. It can also be used during the holiday season when we all generally enjoy food and eat a high calorie, high fat diet.  

How much pomegranate seed oil to take? 

Only 1% percent of your daily caloric intake needs to be from pomegranate seed oil. Assuming a daily caloric intake of 3000 calories, then 30 calories can be contributed by pomegranate oil, which turns out to be just about 3 grams of oil per day.  

Pomegranate Seed Oil for Diabetes 

Type-2 diabetes is a chronic condition which not only causes problems with blood glucose levels but also affects the nerves (leading to diabetic neuropathy) and a general decline in the quality of life that comes with a restricted diet. A few medical studies have found pomegranate seed oil to be helpful in diabetes.  

Because of its powerful antioxidant activity, it increases the levels of an antioxidant enzyme called as glutathione peroxidase in our blood. It was already known earlier that people suffering from type-2 diabetes have lower levels of this antioxidant in their body. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant present in almost the entire human body where it prevents regular decay to our cells caused by free radicals. Many more studies indicate that certain conditions like vitiligo, multiple sclerosis and celiac disease too lead to a decreased level of antioxidant levels in blood. There could be a strong relation here, but we are still not sure about the cause-effect relationship. [2], [7] 

Secondly, pomegranate seed oil increased secretion of insulin but unfortunately, it did not lead to a reduction in fasting glucose. To reduce that, extracted punicic acid (as a supplement) from pomegranate seed oil was found to be effective. Pomegranate seed oil also increased insulin sensitivity of our peripheral tissues, that is the arms and feet. This means that cells of our limbs would be able to lower glucose levels using a smaller amount of insulin, which is quite beneficial in type-2 diabetes. It might also reduce the chances of developing neuropathy in the extremities.  

Prevents Neurodegenerative Diseases 

Recent medical research points to the role of prions in the progression of neurodegenerative syndromes. Prions are quite unlike the known pathogens (like bacteria or viruses). They are microscopic proteins that got misfolded due to some unknown reasons. These prions are believed to be responsible for numerous nervous system disorders. In a study conducted on mice, pomegranate seed oil displayed ability to slow down neurodegeneration (by exercising its antioxidant capacity) in the face of prion induced nerve damage. [6]  

In present times of a fast-paced lifestyle, stresses generated due to heavy workload are contributing to oxidative damage to ur cells. We need strong antioxidants along with a proper work-life balance to alleviate stress and its harmful effects on our nerves in order to stay healthier with vigor and vitality.  

Pomegranate Seed oil for Skin and Hair Care

Apart from the commonplace benefits of oleic acid (emollient) and linoleic acid (regeneration of skin’s natural barrier leading to effective moisturization), pomegranate seed oil is unique for skin care because of health benefits provided by punicic acid.  

In a study conducted on patients who had undergone laser resurfacing of the face, punicic acid aided in reducing acute itching (pruritis), swelling (edema) and also helped in faster healing of scars. It played a role in improving regeneration of epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin. It also displayed potent anti-inflammatory action. [8] 

Since pomegranate seed oil contains as much as 64% punicic acid, it becomes a formidable agent for wound healing, scar healing and reduction in wrinkles. Additionally, its powerful antioxidant potential keeps the skin cells healthier, which forms the basis of a younger looking skin. It can be directly applied to the skin without any dilution because it is similar to other vegetable oils in texture and consistency.  

Pomegranate seed oil is also noted for its ability to penetrate skin in an effective manner. Since it also contains oleic acid and linoleic acid, both of which also penetrate into the deeper layers of skin, they exert synergistic effect with punicic acid. A study has demonstrated effectiveness of pomegranate seed oil in penetrating resveratrol into the deeper layers of the skin where it exerts potent anti-ageing effects on the skin. [8] Resveratrol, as many may know, is a powerful antioxidant and one of the most renowned anti-ageing compounds found commonly in grape seeds and skin. Using this information, an effective anti-ageing oil can be created using just 2 oils.  

Ingredients 

Pomegranate seed oil (10 ml)
Grapeseed oil (90 ml) 

How to make and apply? 

Pomegranate seed oil should be added to grapeseed oil (both of them should be cold pressed) and mixed thoroughly. This oil should be applied directly on the skin, including the face. It should be left for about 15 minutes to allow the oil to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin. Pomegranate seed oil becomes the vehicle that takes resveratrol in grapeseed oil into the dermis.  

Pomegranate seed oil contains some amount of Vitamin E in the form of tocopherols which helps in detangling hair and preventing skin and hair from UV-induced damage. 

Note – Comedogenicity of this oil is not known. It is best to avoid using it on active acne.  

Nutritional and Medicinal Information

Pomegranate is grown in many places around the world and they all have slight differences in their nutrition. Here is the fatty acid profile of pomegranate seed oil sourced from Georgia, USA.  

Fatty acid  Carbon notation and type  Percentage as weight of oil 
Punicic acid  C 18: 3 (PUFA)  81.22 
Linoleic acid  C 18: 2 (PUFA)  4.08 
Oleic acid  C 18: 1 (MUFA)  5.68 
Palmitic acid  C 16: 0 (Saturated)  4.00 
Stearic acid  C 18: 0 (Saturated)  2.92 
Lignoceric acid  C 24: 0 (Saturated)  1.00 

Source: 9 

Punicic acid is an omega-5 polyunsaturated fatty acid. Much of the special health benefits of pomegranate seed oil are due to the presence of punicic acid. In our body, it is metabolized to a form of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Punicic acid has also demonstrated strong chemo preventive action against certain forms of cancer. Since it is found in a very few plant-based oils, it has assumed an exotic touch.  

Vitamin E is also present in pomegranate seed oil. It contains about 160 – 170 mg of alpha-tocopherol and 80-93 mg of gamma-tocopherol per 100 gm of oil. While alpha tocopherol protects against reactive oxygen species (ROS) based free radicals, gamma-tocopherol protects against reactive nitrogen species (often generated by pollutants and paints, varnishes etc). So, they exercise complementary antioxidant behavior. Vitamin E plays an essential role in protecting our skin from premature ageing caused by the sun. Regularly applying oils rich in Vitamin E and consuming edible oils rich in Vitamin E helps to skin free from sun induced wrinkles, dark spots and hyperpigmentation. [9] 

Pomegranate seed oil also contains a high density of healthy phytosterols (plant derived sterols) like β-sitosterol and campesterol.[9] Oils laden with phytosterols are beneficial in achieving a healthier lipid profile of our blood which leads to a reduced risk for cardiovascular diseases.  

Pomegranate seed oil contains a special kind of fat which is commonly known as cerebroside. This fat forms part of the myelin sheath (natural covering) of our nerves. This covering is oily and it prevents the nerves from communicating messages at the desired speed. If this myelin sheath starts degrading, we suffer from neurological syndromes like multiple sclerosis. Presence of cerebroside in pomegranate seed oil makes it a potent neuroprotective natural oil. [9] 

Physical and chemical properties of cold pressed oil are mentioned in the table below. 

Saponification Value  190 
Relative Density  0.939 
Peroxide Value  3.60 
Free fatty acids  2.8 
ORAC Value (measure of antioxidant power)   

Source: 10 

Side Effects, Safe Dosage and Toxicity Issues

Pomegranate seed oil also contains a class of natural compounds called as phytoestrogens. When they are consumed, they can mimic the action of estrogen. They are used as hormone replacement therapy in women. But, they can also have some hormonal side effects at high doses. [11] Secondly, the dosage of pomegranate seed oil or its supplement form is dependent of the condition, that is whether you take it for its anti-obesity effect, its anti-diabetic effect or for preventing osteoporosis. One should consult a doctor for advice on the accurate dosage of pomegranate seed oil needed. Other than that, the oil is fairly low sensitizing, irritant or allergenic.  

Buying and Storage

Cold pressed pomegranate seed oil can last for 2 – 3 years because of its high antioxidant power. It should still be kept in stainless steel or amber colored thick glass bottles. Good quality pomegranate oil has thick consistency, is fairly dense and has only a mild fruity aroma. If the aroma is too strong, then it is probably adulterated with artificial perfumes like esters.                                                 

References

  1. Punicic acid: A striking health substance to combat metabolic syndromes in humans. Muhmmad Asim Shabbir et al, Lipids in Health and Disease.   
  2. Pomegranate seed oil, a rich source of punicic acid, prevents diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance in mice. Vroegrijk et al, Food Chem Toxicol. 
  3. Potent health effects of pomegranate. Aida Zarfeshany et al, Advanced Biomedical Research. 
  4. Therapeutic Role of Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil Extract on Bone Turnover and Resorption Induced in Ovariectomized Rats. Shaban NZ et al, Journal of Nutrition, Health and Ageing. 
  5. Effects of Pomegranate Seed Oil on the Fertilization Potency of Rat’s Sperm. MohsenNiksereshtet al, Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research.  
  6. Pomegranate seed oil nanoemulsions for the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases: the case of genetic CJD. Mizrahi M. et al, Nanomedicine. 
  7. Effects of Pomegranate Seed Oil on Insulin Release in Rats with Type 2 Diabetes. Ali Akbar Nekooeian et al, Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences. 
  8. A Topical Anti-inflammatory Healing Regimen Utilizing Conjugated Linolenic Acid for Use Post-ablative Laser Resurfacing of the Face: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Wu DC and Goldman MP, The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology.  
  9. Pomegranate Seed Oil (Punica Granatum L.) : A source of Punicic acid (Conjugated alpha-linolenic acid). Illana Louise Pereira de Melo et al,  Journal of Human Nutrition and Food Science.  
  10. Pomegranate Seed Oil – Mountain Rose Herbs. 
  11. Pomegranate Fruit as a Rich Source of Biologically Active Compounds. Sreeja Sreekumar et al, Biomedical Research International.  

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