Ellagic Acid

A naturally occurring phenol antioxidant, ellagic acid is present in several vegetables and fruits. This substance possesses antioxidant and anti-proliferative properties, which have encourages scientists to study the prospective health benefits of ellagic acid. Precisely speaking, ellagic acid is the dilactone (a compound containing two lactone groups) of hexahydroxydipenic acid.

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Noted French chemist and pharmacist Henri Braconnot discovered ellagic acid for the first time in 1831. Nearly a century later, in 1905, Maximilian Nierenstein, a biochemistry professor at the University of Bristol, made this organic substance from pomegranate, dividivi, oak bark, algarobilla, valonea and myrabolams. In fact, the credit for synthesizing ellagic acid by heating up gallic acid with silver oxide or arsenic acid goes to Löwe.

Ellagic acid is basically a phytochemical. In other words, it is a plant-based chemical. Plants use ellagic acid to dissuade pests as well as protect them from infections. Ellagic acid is considered to possess anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, which offer varied and considerable health benefits to humans. However, scientific evidence regarding the health benefits of ellagic acid to humans is still not beyond question, but people are very hopeful.

It has been found that ellagic acid possesses helpful anti-cancer properties, which are useful for treating a variety of cancer forms, including skin, breast and prostate cancers. Findings of a number of studies have shown that this phytochemical possesses the aptitude to attach itself with cancer molecules and render them inactive. It is worth noting here that several studies have been undertaken with ellagic acid on animals, such as rats. Compared to the animal studies involving ellagic acid, not many studies have been undertaken on humans.

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Many scientists strongly believe that ellagic acid is an antioxidant. If this turns out to be true, this phytochemical will be hugely beneficial to humans since antioxidants are effective in putting off cell damage by free radicals. It is also believed that ellagic acid is effective in lessening the occurrences of birth defects, heart disease, and speed up wound healing. It has been noticed that people who have a preference for alternative healing remedies generally use ellagic acid for this purpose. Although there is no scientific evidence confirming the wound healing attributes of this phytochemical on humans, some people continue to use it for this purpose.

Fruits and vegetables containing ellagic acid in significant amounts include cranberries, strawberries and pomegranates. It is believed that raspberries contain the maximum amount of this phytochemical. In addition, a number of nuts like pecans and walnuts also contain ellagic acid. Some people consume these foods in large amounts with the hope of preventing and combating cancers. Such people ought to know that eating anything in excess may not always been good for their health. Instead, one should always focus on taking a balanced diet.

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It is worth mentioning that fruits like pomegranates, red raspberries and walnuts are among foods containing high amounts of ellagic acid. These foods are also the originators to ellagic acid known as ellagitannins. In the intestines, a few dietary ellagic acids are changed into compounds known as urolithins. Our body also takes up urolithins and they may perhaps be responsible of a number of health benefits offered by ellagic acid. It seems that ellagic acid and a number of its metabolic products possess anti-carcinogenic properties, and they are particularly effective in combating prostate cancer.

Our body rapidly absorbs ellagic acid from ingested foods and it reaches the utmost level in the blood stream roughly one hour after consuming foods containing this phytochemical. Subsequently, the level of ellagic acid in the blood starts declining as this phytochemical is metabolized into various other simpler compounds.

Health benefits

It was found that ellagitannins obtained from strawberries inhibited the development of an enzyme called pancreatic amylase, which retards the preliminary stages of starch digestion. Another enzyme present in the intestines and called alpha-glucosidase facilitates the final stage of start digestion wherein glucose is absorbed by the blood stream in the intestines. In fact, ellagic acid also inhibits the actions of alpha-glucosidase, thereby controlling the presence of glucose in the blood stream. In this way, both ellagic acid and ellagitannins work to reduce the pace of glucose absorption into the blood stream after one takes a meal. It is worth mentioning here that majority of the ellagic acid found in raspberries and strawberries is present in these pulp and seeds of these fruits. However, the amount of these phytochemicals in the juice of these fruits is much less.

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Ellagic acid is a main active element in pomegranate juice. This natural phenol compound works as a potent antioxidant and is considered to be an effective cancer-combating agent. In test tube studies, it has been found that ellagic acid possesses the aptitude to prevent carcinogenic compounds from directly binding with cellular DNA. It is believed that this mechanism of ellagic acid helps this phytochemical to put off cancerous growths. Nevertheless, more research is necessary before one can conclude the anti-cancer health benefits of ellagic acid.

Various chemicals present in our body possess the potential to result in dangerous mutations in bacteria. Consumption of foods high in ellagic acid content helps to slow down this aptitude of such chemicals.

Apoptosis is a process induced by certain medications wherein cancer cells die on their own without damaging the healthy cells in our body. This self-destruction of cancer cells is extremely useful in treating various cancer forms, including those of the breast, skin, prostate and lungs. Aside from inducing apoptosis, ellagic acid also reinforces the immune system, while preventing fatigue and infections.

The cancer-combating properties of ellagic acid have made this phytochemical very popular across the world. Latest studies with this phytochemical have revealed that ellagic acid also aids in preventing heart disease, stomach ulcers and lowers the chances of birth defects. In addition, ellagic acid also shields the liver from several types of damages. In addition, ellagic acid has also found to be effective in controlling diabetes by lowering the levels of glucose in the blood stream.

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For several decades, compared to various health conditions, cardiovascular and heart diseases have been responsible for most of the deaths across the globe. There are various factors which are responsible for the growing incidences of heart and cardiovascular diseases. However, ellagic acid possesses the ability to cure cholesterol oxidation, which leads to build up of plagues in the artery walls, constricts the arteries and augments the chances of heart diseases, by obstructing the flow of blood, thereby resulting in cardiac arrest. Findings of a number of studies have demonstrated that consuming pomegranate juice daily helps to lower the oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol drastically, thereby resulting in the elimination of plagues formed in the coronary arteries. This benefit of pomegranate has been attributed to the fruit's ellagic acid content.

The liver is one of the most vital organs of our body, which works to get rid of waste products and toxins. In the absence of a strong liver, these wastes and toxic substances would have build up in our body causing several diseases. The liver possesses an amazing ability to rejuvenate as well as continue functioning even during the aging process. Nevertheless, as one grows older, some changes occur in the cellular as well as physiological level of the liver, which decrease its overall functioning. The psychological changes that occur in the liver include a reduction in the organ's size by 25 percent when an individual is between 20 years and 70 years old. In addition, the liver also experiences a 33 percent decrease in hepatic blood circulation in people who are aged 65 years or above. Among all forms of cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or liver cancer is responsible for third highest number of deaths across the globe. It has been found that in such situations the anti-cancer attributes of ellagic acid are effective in combating HCC tumours effectively.

Oxidation is a precursor to an age-related disease, which is worsened by environmental pollutants as well as overload on the natural antioxidant reserves of our body. When excessive oxygen circulates within our body, it damages the healthy cells forming detrimental free radicals. These harmful free radicals are usually counter-balanced by the antioxidant defence system of our body. However, in present times, extremely elevated levels of toxins in the environment cause stress and this, in turn, augments the number of mutations in vigorous DNA by the free radicals. If this condition is not treated timely, the free radicals replicate and result in several diseases. In order to counter-balance the excessive oxidative damages, it is necessary to take dietary supplements or nutraceutical antioxidants to prevent occurrence of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and heart disease. In vitro studies have shown that ellagic acid is a very potent antioxidant with wonderful capabilities.

One of the consequences of aging is chronic inflammation, which if not treated timely can result in various health conditions like diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases and even cancer. In the case of a healthy individual, inflammation usually has its origin at an injury site with a view to signal, protect as well as cure the wound. However, when there is a build up of detrimental compounds caused by stress, pollution in the environment and overwhelming the natural repairs processes of the body which lead to a negligible, almost untraceable level of inflammation. This type of inflammation can persist for several years and lead to diseases, which even the sufferer is often unaware of. In studies undertaken on animals, it has been found that the extract obtained from pomegranate possesses the ability to put off intestinal inflammation.

Ellagic acid is a potent antioxidant, which can be useful in protecting the cells of our body against damages caused by free radicals. A section of scientists as well as health professionals are of the view that antioxidants may have a crucial role in curing various conditions known as "silent inflammatory" progressions similar to those that are related to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and various forms of cancer.

During studies undertaken on rodents, scientists found that ellagic acid also works to reduce the levels of fatty tissues of an inflammatory compound known as resistin. Elevated levels of resistin in the blood levels of humans are related to diabetes as well as coronary artery disease. However, as of now, it has not been established scientifically that ellagic acid helps to reduce production of resistin in humans. Nevertheless, pre-clinical trials have suggested that it may have an anti-inflammatory influence in obese people as well as in coronary artery disease. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry undertook a study very recently which revealed that ellagic acid is a very powerful metabolism booster. At the same time, this organic compound combats fat effectively. It was also found that inside the liver ellagic acid burned extra fat and this aided the metabolic health. At the same time, this organic compound stunted the growth of fat cells while blocking the formation of new fat cells.

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