Preliminary results from a randomized controlled trial indicate that pomegranate juice may provide neuroprotection in pregnancies with intrauterine growth restriction.
Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is common and of concern, but there are few treatment options for expectant mothers who receive this diagnosis. Intrauterine growth retardation is a condition in which a baby in the womb is small for gestational age, often due to problems with the placenta, resulting in oxygen and nutrients being transported to the risky or inadequate growing fetus. The brain of a developing fetus is especially vulnerable to these effects. About 1 in 10 children are diagnosed with intrauterine growth retardation disease, and children with intrauterine growth retardation are at increased risk of death and impaired neurodevelopment. Recent research on polyphenol-rich pomegranate juice has indicated that it may help protect the brain from injury. In an exploratory, randomized controlled clinical trial, backed by charitable funding and a gift from POM Wonderful, the largest grower and producer of fresh pomegranate and pomegranate juice in the United States, researchers at Brigham and Women Hospital recorded pregnant mothers whose babies had been diagnosed. With intrauterine growth retardation. The team found evidence that drinking pomegranate juice daily may reduce the risk of brain injury in infants with intrauterine growth retardation, especially during the third trimester of pregnancy when the infant’s brain is particularly vulnerable. The results have been published in Scientific Reports.
“There are dietary factors that may affect neuroprotection, especially in high-risk settings such as during labor and childbirth,” said co-author Terry Ender, MBCHB, chief of the department of neonatology at Brigham. “Our interest was sparked by the results of preclinical research indicating that polyphenols, which are found in high concentrations in pomegranate juice, may be highly protective. Our clinical experience provides the most promising evidence to date that polyphenols may provide protection from the risk of brain injury in infants IUGR. ”
The corresponding author Lillian J. Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, Australia. Prior to joining Monash, Matthews was at Harvard Medical School and Brigham in the Department of Pediatrics and Neonatology, where she maintains her current affiliation.
Polyphenols are part of a class of antioxidants found in some foods and beverages, including almonds, berries, red wine, and tea. Pomegranate juice is a particularly rich source of these molecules. Polyphenols are known to cross the blood-brain barrier, and studies in animal models have shown protective effects against neurodegenerative diseases.
For their clinical trial, Ender and her colleagues recruited 99 expectant mothers in Brigham. Participants were randomly assigned to consume 8 ounces of pomegranate juice or a polyphenol-free beverage matching color, taste, and calorie count. Participants drank the juice daily from recording time until handover.
The team performed MRI measurements on nearly half of the participants before the mothers began the juice regimen and found no evidence of brain injury to the fetus at that time. Postpartum, neonatal MRI measurements showed that infants whose mothers drank pomegranate juice were less likely to have brain injury than those randomly assigned to placebo. The infants were less likely to have cortical gray matter and white matter injury. The team also found no evidence of ductal constriction, which is a potential safety concern.
Given the exploratory nature and limited volume of the study, the authors caution that larger controlled trials are needed. The team also plans to continue studying the infants enrolled in their study over the next 2-3 years to assess the infants’ neurodevelopmental outcomes.
“Neurodevelopmental follow-up studies are ongoing, and we encourage other researchers who study groups of children at high risk to study the effect of polyphenols on neuroprotection,” Ender said. “My dream is that we will one day be able to offer women a way to help protect their infant’s brain from potential injuries. Meanwhile, we will continue to follow participants to provide more insights into the potential clinical effects of pomegranate juice before birth.”
This work was supported by a Brigham and Women’s Hospital Neurosciences Multidisciplinary Award and a gift to Brigham and Women’s Hospital from Boom Wonderful, Los Angeles.
Paper cited: Ross MM et al. A randomized controlled trial investigating the effect of maternal nutritional supplementation with pomegranate juice on brain injury in infants with intrauterine growth enlargement. Scientific Reports DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-021-82144-0
Eileen St. Peter
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