A study conducted in Greece that lasted a full year suggested pomegranate seed oil could help older people with mild cognitive impairment preserve their memory function longer.

Hank Schultz, Senior Editor

February 28, 2024

3 Min Read

At a Glance

  • Pomegranate seed oil was studied for cognitive function benefits.
  • Study featured 80 older subjects with mild cognitive impairment.
  • Study had no placebo but lasted for a full year.

A new long-term study suggests pomegranate seed oil supplementation can help preserve memory and other cognitive functions in subjects with mild cognitive impairment. 

The new research was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. It was the work of researchers associated with a school of medicine and related institutions in Thessaloniki, Greece. 

Pomegranates are among the fruits with the longest history of cultivation. Punica granatum is a small to mid-sized deciduous tree that is probably native to Afghanistan and Iran and has been domesticated in many parts of Europe and Asia. It was introduced to the Americas sometime after the voyages of Columbus. 

While pomegranates are widely consumed as a fresh fruit and often used in culinary preparations, most of the purported health benefits of the fruit revolve around consumption of the juice. And most of the research has focused on the antioxidant potential of the juice and its effects on disease states associated with systemic inflammation. 

Seeds offer special benefits 

However, as with many other polyphenol rich fruits, such as grapes, the seeds of the pomegranate carry their own distinct chemical profile with their own suite of potential benefits. 

Pomegranate seeds are rich in oil that can be extracted in various ways, with cold processing being the preferred method, according to the Greek researchers.  

The study noted that previous research has shown pomegranate seed oil (PSO) helps preserve memory in a rat model. And in vitro research has shown PSO to be an effective adjuvant treatment for use in conjunction with galantamine hydrobromide to restrict the cell-killing effects of amyloid plaques, which are abnormal proteins implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. 

The present research's purpose was to study the effect of PSO supplementation in conjunction with following a Mediterranean diet, which has already shown healthy aging benefits. 

Subjects recruited at senior centers 

To test this effect, the researchers recruited a cohort of 80 Greek subjects, who were all healthy except for having been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). 

The gender breakdown was 32 men and 48 women. All were about 69 years old, plus or minus a few years. The subjects had been recruited at a couple of senior day care centers in northern Greece. Their education levels ranged from having completed elementary school to some college experience. 

Half of the subjects were assigned to a group that received a dose of PSO daily. This was described by the researchers as “five drops,” without further detail. The main constituents of the PSO used in the study were punicic acid, oleic acid and linolenic acid with many minor constituents. The researchers used a commercially available PSO supplement supplied by the Greek firm Pomstar Rodi Hellas. 

The control group followed a standard Mediterranean diet but did not use a placebo in place of the PSO. 

The subjects participated in an extensive battery of tests to measure various aspects of cognitive performance, including global cognition, verbal episodic memory, and processing and executive functions. 

The subjects were tested again at the study's conclusion. This came a full year after the first tests, which was a significant aspect of the study. 

Test group scored better in cognitive measures 

The researchers noted their results must be viewed as preliminary due to the paucity of additional human research. However, they said their results backed up evidence found in animal models. The PSO group scored better in all three measures (global cognition, verbal episodic memory and executive function). 

“In conclusion, because of the absence of clinical trials regarding the effects of PSO on cognition of patients with MCI or other cognitive disorders, the aim of the present study was to identify the potential benefits of PSO in MCI. After one year of treatment, it is proved that the PSO can be beneficial for people with MCI improving different domains of cognition,” the researchers concluded. 


About the Author(s)

Hank Schultz

Senior Editor, Informa

Hank Schultz has been the senior editor of Natural Products Insider since early 2023. He can be reached at [email protected]

Prior to joining the Informa team, he was an editor at NutraIngredients-USA, a William Reed Business Media publication.

His approach to industry journalism was formed via a long career in the daily newspaper field. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and German, Hank was an editor at the Tempe Daily News in Arizona. He followed that with a long stint working at the Rocky Mountain News, a now defunct daily newspaper in Denver, where he rose to be one of the city editors. The newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes during his time there.

The changing landscape of the newspaper industry led him to explore other career paths. He began his career in the natural products industry more than a decade ago at New Hope Natural Media, which was then part of Penton and now is an Informa brand. Hank formed friendships and partnerships within the industry that still inform his work to this day, which helps him to bring an insider’s perspective, tempered with an objective journalist’s sensibility, to his in-depth reporting.

Harkening back to his newspaper days, Hank considers the readers to be the primary stakeholders whose needs must be met. Report the news quickly, comprehensively and above all, fairly, and readership and sponsorships will follow.

In 2015, Hank was recognized by the American Herbal Products Association with a Special Award for Journalistic Excellence.

When he’s not reporting on the supplement industry, Hank enjoys many outside pursuits. Those include long distance bicycle touring, mountain climbing, sailing, kayaking and fishing. Less strenuous pastimes include travel, reading (novels and nonfiction), studying German, noodling on a harmonica, sketching and a daily dose of word puzzles in The New York Times.

Last but far from least, Hank is a lifelong fan and part owner of the Green Bay Packers.

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