Eating more dates and pomegranates could stave off the risk of heart disease.
A new Israeli study has found that the combination of pomegranate juice and dates - along with their pits - provides maximum protection against atherosclerosis, plaque build-up or hardening of the arteries, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, led by Professor Michael Aviram of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and Rambam Medical Center.
A number of risk factors are involved in the development of atherosclerosis, including cholesterol oxidation, which leads to accumulation of lipids in the arterial wall. Natural antioxidants can slow down the oxidation process in the body, and serve to reduce the risk of heart attack.
Pomegranate juice, which is rich in polyphenolic antioxidants, has allegedly been shown to most significantly reduce oxidative stress in previous studies, and dates, which are a rich source of phenolic radical scavenger antioxidants, also inhibit the oxidation of LDL - the so-called 'bad cholesterol' - and stimulate the removal of cholesterol from lipid-laden arterial cells.
The study originated from Aviram's hunch that the combination of the two fruits' qualities could thus prove more beneficial than the sum of its parts.
In a trial performed on arterial cells in culture, as well as in atherosclerotic mice, the Technion team found that the triple combination of pomegranate juice, date fruits and date pits provided maximum protection against the development of atherosclerosis because the combination reduced oxidative stress in the arterial wall by 33 per cent, and decreased arterial cholesterol content by 28 per cent.
The researchers concluded that people at high risk for cardiovascular diseases, as well as healthy individuals, could benefit from consuming the combination of half a glass of pomegranate juice (114ml), together with three dates.
Ideally, the pits should be ground up into a paste and eaten as well, but even without the pits, the combination is better than either fruit alone.