According to Micronutrient Information Center (2010) the phytochemicals are referred to as the chemical components of the plant which have the tendency to affect the human health but they are not yet given the status of formal nutrients. They are the plant related compounds which help the plants to maintain immunity to infections. So they act basically as the defense compounds inside the plant system. Pomegranate is basically a plant which bears fruits that are delicious in taste and full of phytochemicals. The tree height is between 5 to 8 meters. It is traditionally used as treatment remedy option for intestinal diseases, diarrhea and dysentery (Jindal and Sharma, 2004). The pomegranate fruit is comprised of almost 550% of full pomegranate mass. It contains 85% sap and 15% seeds. The fresh liquid is composed of 80% water, 15% whole sugars, and 2.5% pectin, polyphenolic flavonoids and the ascorbic acid.
The critically abundant phytochemicals present in the juice of pomegranate are tannins. The most frequent phytochemicals in the pomegranate are the hydrolysable tannins. These are known as ellagitannins and are produced as the result of binding between some carbohydrate and the ellagic acid. Punicalagins are the type of tannins which have the property of scavenging for free radicals present in our body (Kulkarni et al , 2007). They have the potential to be used as therapeutics (Heber, 2008). Some other phytochemicals present are catechins which are polyphenolic in nature, gallocatechins and a variety of anthocyanins like cyanidin and prodelphinidins etc (Plumb et al., 2002). Due to the presence of these phytochemicals the pomegranate plant is very abundantly used as a therapeutic agent like bark of the root is used in the treatment of parasites residing in the intestine like tape worms.
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We will focus on the effects of punicalagins as they are readily absorbed and have a critical value as anti oxidants. Different studies involving the fruit extract and also the flower extract showed that there is high content of punicalagins in them and the therapeutic potential of this compound is very diverse. It is basically a poly phenolic compound. Particularly speaking the punicalaginsÂ are the huge compounds of polyphenols which are the isomers of 2, 3 - (S) -hexahydroxydiphenoyl-4,6-(S,S) - gallagyl- D- glucose. The molecular weight is 1085 reparation (Bialonska, et al, 2009).
Affects of Processing on PunicalaginsÂ
The homogeneous punicalagins is made by performing the extractions with different solvents of the comminuted pomegranate outgrowth. It has the reddish brown appearance and the total yield is about 30% to 35 % punicalagins. There is as such no effect of processing on the structure and activities of the compound. It maintains its native properties and is used commercially as an antioxidant. The final product is in the powder form. Different methods have been devised for the extraction of organic compounds, so similarly there have been a number of methods which have been used for the isolation and purification of the punicalagins. The organic extraction method is one of the safest and relatively cost effective methods. Whatever the method may be used, special care is taken in order to maintain the stability and activity of the product so that it can be used commercially or experimentally. For the purification relatively benign and highly specific and sensitive techniques are used like High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). As this is a very sensitive and rapid method the extracts can be easily purified by it. Studies are still under process to improve the methods of extraction of these bioactive compounds in their native form (Heber, 2008).
Effects in the body
Punicalagins are extremely exclusive and strong polyphenol antioxidant which metabolize into ellagic acid. The rate of absorption of punicalagins in the body is about 90 to 95%. The major value of punicalagins is in their antioxidant property (Ignarro et al, 2006). The free radicals are the compounds which are present in the body and have unpaired electrons in them. They are highly unstable and are not good for the body. The compounds which take them and prevent the body from their harmful effects are called anti oxidants. They are primarily recognized as the compounds dependable for the decrease in the oxidative stress. They not only act as anti-oxidants in the body but they are also metabolized into small polyphenols which readily get absorbed into the blood stream. As the metabolism continues in the intestine, they are transformed in to urolithins by the bacterial action. The activity of urolithins in the body is still not very clear. The in vivo studies which have been performed on the mice have clearly demonstrated that the punicalagins reduce the oxidative stress and also the liver injury is healed by them. The liver functioning is highly enhanced if the anti oxidants are present in the body in good amount (Bialonska, et al, 2009). They also have some sort of anti viral activities as some of the viruses attack the body by generating free radicals.
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In one study the flu patients have been given two glasses of pomegranate juice everyday for the period of about 3 to 5 days. It has been observed that the juice stopped the viral replication and spread. Later it was confirmed that this particular activity was the result of punicalagins activity.
Punicalagins are also found to be efficient in dropping heart ailment possibilities, including Low Density Lipopolysaccharides oxidation condition and froth cell (Aviram et al, 2006). These all are the conditions for atherosclerosis along with cardiovascular illness (Larrosa et al, 2009). After their metabolism, ellagic acid is produced in the body which has significant health effects. The punicalagins are also considered as anti cancers. They are involved in the modulation of cell signaling pathways involved in the inflammation, particularly in the cells of colon or colorectal cancers. They are involved in the suppression of inflammation in the cells or colon cancer (Adams et al, 2006).
Despite all the claims about the great beneficial effects of the pomegranate it is yet not FDA approved. Research is still being under process to clearly judge the beneficial and adverse effects. But some companies are using the current data as a tool of their marketing for the products like POM wonderful. To these companies the warning letters have been issued by the FDA authorities as promotion and marketing of such products is not allowed. There is no permission to use the published literature for the making of illegal claims as the properties of the compound are yet to be evaluated. Many other plant compounds also have anti oxidant properties but they are also not used in the market as the FDA approved drugs unless they have been tested by FDA itself (Aviram and Dornfeld 2001).
Phytochemicals are the compounds which are present in the plants and have significant health value. The phytochemical composition of the pomegranate plant and the fruit is very diverse ranging from soluble tannins to catechins. Punicalagins have significant value in the phytochemical activity of this plant. They have marked their effect as antioxidants. They break down in to ellagic acid in the body. The metabolism and absorption in the body is very easy and effective. In fact the metabolized product of punicalagins is of significant medical value. It has been shown in one study that the utilization of pomegranate juice in the hypersensitive patients results in the decrease of their systolic blood pressure (Aviram and Dornfeld 2001). The cardiovascular diseases are catered by the punicalagins present in the pomegranate juice. The commercial availability of this compound is also now made sure so that those who want to receive the huge benefits of this key ingredient can have it. Huge number of in vivo and in vitro studies is going on to study the good and harmful effects of punicalagins in the human body. The current data analysis clearly demonstrated that the given organic compound has much more beneficial effects rather than the harmful consequences.
Pomegranate juice is recommended for the people of all ages and ethnicity especially the people who are at greater risk of developing the heart diseases or cancers. According to NIH clinical trials (2010) the phytochemicals present in the plant juice or extract help in prevention from heart diseases and different cancers like colon cancer, breast cancer, prostrate carcinomas , lymphomas and many others. The fruits which are rich in anti-aromatase phytochemicals, like pomegranate greatly decrease the incidence and risk of breast cancer which is dependent on the hormone activities. According to the researchers the ellagitannins which are present in the pomegranates juice exert their effect by the inhibition of enzyme aromatase. Aromatase is an important enzyme which the body uses to produce estrogen and it also helps in the development of breast cancer in the females. The therapeutic effects on diabetes are also observed. Besides its potential therapeutic value it is very refreshing and delicious. So it is strongly recommended that the pomegranate juice must be utilized in the daily routine.