Foods 2020, 9, 122; doi:10.3390/foods9020122 www.mdpi.com/journal/foods
Food Applications and Potential Health
Benefits of Pomegranate and its Derivatives
Panagiotis Kandylis * and Evangelos Kokkinomagoulos
Laboratory of Oenology and Alcoholic Beverages, Department of Food Science and Technology,
School of Agriculture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, P.O. Box 235, 54124 Thessaloniki, Greece;
* Correspondence: email@example.com; Tel.: +30-2310-991678
Received: 31 December 2019; Accepted: 21 January 2020; Published: 23 January 2020
Abstract: Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) is an ancient fruit that is particularly cultivated in west
Asia, though it is also cultivated in the Mediterranean region and other parts of the world. Since
ancient years, its consumption has been associated with numerous health benefits. In recent years,
several in vitro and in vivo studies have revealed its beneficial physiological activities, especially its
antioxidative, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, human-based studies
have shown promising results and have indicated pomegranate potential as a protective agent of
several diseases. Following that trend and the food industry’s demand for antioxidants and
antimicrobials from natural sources, the application of pomegranate and its extracts (mainly as
antioxidants and antimicrobials), has been studied extensively in different types of food products
with satisfactory results. This review aims to present all the recent studies and trends in the
applications of pomegranate in the food industry and how these trends have affected product’s
physicochemical characteristics and shelf-life. In addition, recent in vitro and in vivo studies are
presented in order to reveal pomegranate’s potential in the treatment of several diseases.
Keywords: extract; juice; peel; seed; antioxidant; polyphenols; health benefits; dairy; meat; food
Pomegranate is the well-established fruit of a shrub (Punica granatum L.) that is particularly
cultivated in west Asia and in the region around the Mediterranean, as well as other parts of the
world, including America, where the climate is suitable for its growth . The shrub normally grows
up to 5 m, but in some cases, it may reach a morphology of a tree that is as tall as 10 m, except for
dwarf cultivars that grow up to 1–2 m . Climates that simulate that of Mediterranean (with high
sunlight-exposed mild winters and dry summers), seem to be ideal for the growth of pomegranate.
Most varieties are deciduous, although there have been reports of evergreen and conditionally
deciduous pomegranates, depending on the altitude and temperature of the zone. The fruit is
categorized as a fleshy berry. Its shape is nearly round, with a diameter up to 10 cm, and there is a
crown-shaped calyx at the top. Inside the leathery exocarp is a fleshy mesocarp, organized in
chambers that are separated by membranes. The arils contain the edible portion of the fruit. The
exocarp, namely the pomegranate peel, comprises around 50% of the whole fruit, while the edible
part consists of 10% seeds and 40% arils . The whole pomegranate and its juice have an intense
color for which selected bioactive compounds are responsible, especially anthocyanins. Therefore,
the variation in color amongst different cultivars is mainly due to the different concentration of these
The scope of the current review is to point out pomegranate applications in food industry
concerning the product’s physicochemical characteristics and shelf life. Moreover, there is an effort
Foods 2020, 9, 122 2 of 22
to present the pomegranate’s potential against a number of diseases through in vitro and in vivo
2. General Description
The pomegranate originates in the Middle East, with findings such as fossilized leaves, branches
and seeds dating back to the early Bronze Age (3500–2000 BC). Scientists have placed it in the first
five positions in the list of the oldest cultivated fruits, along with the olive, grape, date palm and fig
, while references of pomegranate exist in the Koran and the Bible . In many religions and
cultures, pomegranate is thought to be an auspicious symbol, mostly of life, luck, abundance and
fertility . The process of the domestication of pomegranate took place during the prehistoric times,
when traders, sailors and missionaries are said to have been responsible for the introduction of
pomegranate to the Mediterranean region, Mexico and California. Its spread through Eurasia and
America demonstrates the versatility of the plant as far as climatic and soil conditions are concerned,
and this is actually the reason for the fruit’s current morphological conditions.
The pomegranate is part of the Punicaceae family and the Punica genus, whereas two species
exist: Punica granatum and Punica protopunica. The latter is endemic to Socotra Island (Yemen) and is
considered to have played an important role in the evolution of the cultivated form of pomegranate,
since it is considered the ancestor of the genus Punica . The genus Punica has distinctive
characteristics that place it in the order Myrtales, although the family under which it should be is
debatable . Historically, due to early morphological studies, it is believed that the Punica genus
should be considered under Lythraceae , but there have been many controversies regarding its
classification into a family. However, due to its unique morphology and other features, such as fruits
with leathery pericarp, pulpy seeds with edible sarcotesta, an ovule with a multilayered outer
integument, and a unicellular archesporium, pomegranate has been found to differ from other typical
Lythraceae genera and has therefore been included in a separate family, Punicaceae . The first
written description of the genus Punica dates back to 1753 and belongs to C. Linnaeus . The current
scientific name Punica granatum can be translated to “seeded apple” (Punica—apple; granatum—
grainy) . Due to the plant’s high tolerance to drought conditions, pomegranate is considered a
suitable option for the cultivation of fruit crops in arid zones.
There are many different cultivars of pomegranate (more than 500) spread all over the world.
However, the type of cultivars that have prevailed in certain regions reflects the preferences and taste
of the local populations, e.g., nonacidic cultivars are favored in India. The origin of the current
cultivars is covered by a shroud of doubt because most of them are derivatives of mutations with no
recordings of their origin. Exemptions are some cultivars that are the result of deliberate breeding.
In general, the same basic pomegranate fruit is known by different names in different regions,
and this is mainly due to the fact that husk and aril color can markedly vary when grown in different
regions. These differences mainly affect fruit size, husk color (ranging from yellow to purple, with
pink and red most common), aril color (ranging from white to red), seed hardness, maturity, juice
content, acidity, sweetness and astringency .
Some of the most important cultivars around the world are presented in Table 1.
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Table 1. Some of the pomegranate varieties around the world.
Country Variety References
China Dabaitian, Heyinruanzi, Tongpi, Bopi 
Egypt Arabi, Manfaloty, Nab ElGamal, Wardy 
Georgia Pirosmani, Rubin, Shirvani, Slunar, Vedzisuri, Imeretis Sauketeso 
Greece Hermione, Persephone, Porphirogeneti 
India Ganesh, Mridula, Bhagwa, Ruby, Alandi [12,13]
Iran Malas-e-Saveh, Rabab-e-Neyriz, Malas-e-Yazdi, Sishe Kape-Ferdos,
Israel Rosh Hapered, Malisi, Wonderful, Asmar [13,15]
Italy Dente di Cavallo, Neirana, Profeta, A dente Molfetta, Ecotipo Turi,
Maddaloni Dolce, Giardino Chiuso Dolce [16,17]
Malta Blance, Dulce Colourada, Cagin [13,18]
Morocco Gjebali, Djeibi, Grenade Jaune, Grenade rouge, Bzou, Sefri, Chelfi 
Spain Mollar de Elche, Agri de albatera, Valenciana [13,20]
Tunisia Gabsi, Tounsi, Zehri, Mezzi, Jebali, Garoussi, Kalaii, Zaghouani [10,21]
Turkey Cekirdksiz, Ernar, Fellahyemez, Hatay, Akanar, Hicaznar, Janarnar [10,13]
USA Wonderful, Early Foothill, Granada, Spanish sweet, Ruby red [13,18,22]
Pomegranate is a well-known source of valuable nutritional substances. It contains hydrolysable
tannins, condensed tannins, flavonols, anthocyanins, and phenolic and organic acids (Figure 1);
compounds that have been studied and related with numerous health benefits against diseases .
In addition, it is characterized by a low pH value (usually <4.0), a relatively high acidity (even up to
20 g of citric acid/L of juice), and a sugar content (mainly fructose and glucose) of 70–180 g/L. The
exact composition of the fruit depends on many factors, such as the cultivar, soil condition, climate,
ripening stage, cultivation techniques, processing conditions, and storage conditions (Table 2).
The edible part of the fruit is at least 50% of the fruit (40% arils and 10% seeds), and the rest is
the non-edible peel. Peels are source of phenolics, minerals and complex polysaccharides, while arils,
apart from water (85%), contain sugars, pectin, organic acids, phenolics, and flavonoids—principally
anthocyanins. Seeds contain proteins, crude fibers, vitamins, minerals, pectin, sugars, polyphenols,
isoflavones, and the oil that is derived from them (12%–20%) is characterized by a high content of
polyunsaturated fatty acids such as linolenic and linoleic acids, as well as other lipids such as punicic
acid, oleic acid, stearic acid, and palmitic acid .
The family of hydrolysable tannins contains two members, ellagitannins and gallotannins,
which can be hydrolyzed into ellagic and gallic acid, respectively. On the one hand, ellagitannins are
mostly present in the pericarp, seeds, flowers, and bark, while, on the other hand, gallotannins are
mostly present in the leaves. Punicalagin, a substance belonging in the family of ellagitannins, is
responsible for more than the half pomegranate juice’s antioxidant effect . Following the digestion
path, ellagitannins are converted by the intestinal flora into urolithins. Other substances that are
present in pomegranate juice are phenolic acids, mainly gallic acid and ellagic acid (which belong to
hydroxybenzoic acids), as well as caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, and p-coumaric acid (which belong
to hydroxycinnamic acids) .
Another constituent that plays a major role in the pomegranate as a functional food is
anthocyanins. These water-soluble plant pigments belong to the family of flavonoids and are
responsible for the color of the fruit and its juice. They have been thoroughly studied for their
numerous effects on health, such as their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative
properties, meaning that they can contribute to the prevention of several diseases . Flavonoids,
including flavonols, anthocyanins and phenolic acids, are mainly found in the peel and juice of
Foods 2020, 9, 122
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It has been reported that the main phenolic compounds in pomegranate juice are anthocyanins,
whereas the main phenolic compounds that are found in the mesocarp and pericarp are hydrolysable
tannins . It has also been reported that the pomegranate peel has a higher antioxidant capacity
than the arils and seeds of the fruit , thus making it a potent source of bioactive compounds. This
is in accordance with other studies that have indicated that the pomegranate peel has a higher
concentration of phenolic compounds in comparison with pomegranate juice .
Figure 1. Major polyphenols, organic acids, alkaloids, and lignans of the pomegranate fruit.
Table 2. Physicochemical characteristics of pomegranate varieties’ juices.
(°Brix) 10.0–16.5 12.0–15.0 13.0–16.0 15.7–17.5 16.2 ± 0.2
pH 4.0–4.2 3.6–3.7 2.9–3.6 2.8–3.6 3.6 ± 0.1
(g/L) 4.0–6.8 8.2–11.4 14.8–24.5 11.0–13.0 3.8 ± 0.2
Fructose (%w/v) 4.1–6.0 3.9–4.0 3.5–4.0 7.8–9.1 8.2
Glucose (%w/v) 4.3–6.4 4.3–4.4 3.4–3.9 7.3–8.4 7.0
Total sugars (%w/v) 8.5–12.4 8.3–8.4 7.2–7.9 15.3–17.5 15.2
Several varieties from Iran ;
Total soluble solids;
Titratable acidity (g citric acid/L of juice).
The bioactive health effects of pomegranate have been attributed to the broad range of
phytochemicals that it contains. The most predominant phytochemical in pomegranate, as was
already described, is considered to be polyphenols—mainly hydrolysable ellagitannins and
anthocyanins . However, it has been proven that there is a synergistic effect among compounds
that further increases their bioactivity. For example, quercetin and ellagic acid show better inhibition
properties against cancer cell growth in comparison to each of the substances alone .
Usually, the characterization of a matrix, and especially of the compounds to be studied, is based
on previously published works. Nowadays, along with advancements in technology, it is possible to
create databases with properties of known substances. An example of this is high resolution mass
spectroscopy, where the analyzed substance can be identified based on a database that has been
constructed and allows for the identification of new compounds beyond those already known .
A recent study  characterized pomegranate aril anthocyanin extracts by high pressure liquid
chromatography (HPLC) coupled with high resolution mass spectroscopy (HRMS), and the five most
dominant anthocyanins were delphinidin-3,5-diglucoside, cyanidin-3,5-diglucoside, pelargonidin-
3,5-diglucoside, delphinidin-3-glucoside, and cyanidin-3-glucoside.
Foods 2020, 9, 122 5 of 22
3. Health Benefits
Fruits, in general, play a major role in the maintenance of a balanced diet. They provide plenty
of macro- and micronutrients, as well as bioactive compounds that promote health. Over the past few
decades, there have been many studies indicating the importance of fruit consumption in the
prevention of health-associated risks, as well as campaigns for the incorporation of fruit in the diets
Numerous studies concerning the potential health benefits, in addition to the nutritional value,
of the pomegranate and its constituents have been conducted. Encouraging findings have increased
the interest shown in this specific fruit over the past few years. Pomegranate, being rich in bioactive
compounds like polyphenols, has shown many health-related properties, such as antioxidant, anti-
inflammatory and antihypertensive, through in vivo and in vitro studies. The health-promoting
properties of the fruit are considered to mainly be due to the presence of punicalagin and, to a lesser
extent, to other metabolites, such as flavonols and anthocyanins . Several studies have brought
up the potential contribution of pomegranate in the treatment of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
3.1. In Vitro Studies
Several in vitro studies have been conducted by mainly using pomegranate juice and extracts in
order to associate them with numerous health benefits (Table 3).
Table 3. Recent health-related pomegranate in vitro studies.
Derivative Effect References
whole fruit extract ↓H2O2-induced oxidative stress; ↓apoptosis;
natural antioxidants for skin health 
whole fruit extract antimicrobial activity against 29 clinical
Clostridium difficile isolates 
juice extract inhibition of a-glucosidase activity 
extract and juice prebiotic effect 
juice ↓lipogenesis and lipolysis 
juice inhibition of lipase, α-glucosidase and dipeptidyl
peel extract inhibition of renal cell carcinoma growth 
peel extract anti-neurodegenerative 
peel extract ↑apoptosis and ↓metastasis in prostate cancer cells 
peel and juice extract inhibition of cariogenic bacteria [46,47]
peel and fruit extract stimulates osteoblastic differentiation
peel polysaccharide immunostimulatory effect 
punicalagin antiproliferative activity against human lung,
breast, cervical and prostate cancer cells [51–53]
punicalagin ↑papillary thyroid human carcinoma cell death 
punicalagin inhibition of lipopolysaccharide-induced memory
impairment (Alzheimer’s disease) 
punicalagin attenuates osteoclast differentiation (osteoporosis) 
products (juice, extract, oil)
photo-chemopreventive effect in human
reconstituted skin 
urolithins inhibition of neuroinflammation (Alzheimer’s
3.1.1. Prebiotic Effect and Antimicrobial Activity
One of the most important health-related functions of the pomegranate and its derivatives is
their effect on gut microbiota and their potential use as antimicrobial agents. It is well known that
Foods 2020, 9, 122 6 of 22
ellagitannins, the most abundant group of polyphenols in pomegranate, are hydrolyzed in ellagic
acid in the gut before being further metabolized by the colon microbiota to form urolithin A and B
. This has been associated with the prebiotic potential of the pomegranate and its products.
Indeed, in an in vitro study with fecal bacteria, pomegranate by-products enhanced the growth of
Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp. acting as a prebiotic . Pure cultures of Bifidobacterium
and Lactobacillus strains have been proven capable of utilizing ellagic acid and glycosyl ellagic acid
. Pomegranate by-products, such as gallic acid, ellagic acid and glucose units, are used by fecal
bacteria to produce urolithins and increase the production of short chain fatty acids like acetate,
propionate and butyrate . In a similar study, pomegranate juice and extracts were used in in vitro
stool cultures and were proven to enhance the growth of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli while
simultaneously inhibiting the growth of the Bacteroides fragilis group, Clostridia, and
Enterobacteriaceae . Furthermore, pomegranate by-products and punicalagins were found to
inhibit the growth of pathogenic Clostridia and Staphyloccocus aureus in human gut bacteria cultures
. These results may reveal the potential prebiotic activity of pomegranate juice and extracts on
human gut microflora. The prebiotic effect of pomegranate juice has been evaluated by using the
simulated gastrointestinal digestion of different pomegranate juices with lactic acid bacteria,
resulting in the increased bio-accessibility of phenolic compounds and ensuring the survival of lactic
acid bacteria (which may be due to metabolism of the ellagitannins, epicatechin, and catechin) .
3.1.2. Anticarcinogenic Effect
Pomegranate extracts have also been evaluated for their anticarcinogenic activity against
numerous cancer types. More specifically, pomegranate extracts have been shown to block nuclear
factor kappa B (NF-κB) activity in a prostate cancer model  and renal cell carcinoma  in vitro.
Therefore, pomegranate extracts may be used as dietary adjuncts to manage patients with small,
localized, incidentally identified renal tumors, and this may lead to the avoidance of nephrectomy
. Pomegranate peel extracts and punicalagin, a polyphenol from pomegranate fruit, have shown
growth inhibition on prostate cancer cells and anti-proliferative activity via the induction of apoptosis
[45,51]. Additionally, in vitro studies have revealed that punicalagin induces the cell death of
papillary thyroid carcinoma cells , inhibits cell proliferation in a non-small lung carcinoma cell
line , and exerts a strong anti-proliferative activity against the human lung, breast, and cervical
cancer cell lines . The pomegranate and its products have been associated with the prevention of
cancer metastasis. In a recent study, the main molecular targets of pomegranate that are associated
with cancer metastasis were reviewed . These targets include (i) molecules that are involved in
cell–cell and cell–extracellular matrix adhesions, (ii) pro-inflammatory and pro-angiogenic
molecules, (iii) modulators of cytoskeleton dynamics, and (iv) regulators of cancer cell anoikis and
chemotaxis. Furthermore, the antimetastatic effect of pomegranate may be attributed to molecular
changes in the extracellular matrix.
3.1.3. Skin Health
Pomegranate phenolics may be used as natural antioxidants for cosmeceutical applications for
skin health, as a recent in vitro study showed their protective effects against H2O2-induced oxidative
stress and cytotoxicity in human keratinocyte HaCaT cells . In addition, pomegranate products
(juice, extract and oil) that are derived from the remaining material after pomegranate fruit squeezing
for juice production have presented photo-chemopreventive effects . More specifically,
pomegranate products have been shown to inhibit UVB-mediated DNA and protein damage,
increased proliferating cell nuclear antigen and tropoelastin levels along with the degradation of
extracellular matrix proteins in human reconstituted skin.
3.1.4. Obesity, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, Osteoporosis and Dental Health
In recent years, obesity has become a worldwide health problem, and several studies have
focused on it. Pomegranate juice and some specific components, like ellagic acid and punicalagin,
Foods 2020, 9, 122 7 of 22
have presented the ability to inhibit amine oxidases, α-glucosidase, dipeptidyl peptidase-4, lipase,
triglyceride accumulation, and adipogenesis-related genes, as well as to decrease lipogenesis and
lipolysis in mouse and human adipose cells. These results have shown the great potential of
pomegranate juice and its components to be used as a functional food for the prevention of diseases
that are associated with obesity, diabetes and dyslipidemias [41,42]. In addition, pomegranate juice
extract and ellagitannins have been shown to inhibit α-glucosidase activity in vitro and to reduce
starch digestibility under simulated gastrointestinal conditions, confirming the great potential of
pomegranate juice to improve postprandial hyperglycemia, which is linked to type II diabetes .
Several studies have proposed the use of pomegranate, and especially its derivative punicalagin
and urolithins, as a potential nutritional strategy in slowing the progression of neurodegenerative
disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease . Urolithins inhibit neuroinflammation , while
punicalagin inhibits lipopolysaccharide-induced memory impairment via anti-inflammatory and
anti-amylogenic mechanisms .
Pomegranate extracts (peel and fruit) stimulate osteoblastic differentiation [48,49], while
punicalagin attenuates osteoclast differentiation in vitro ; therefore, pomegranate juice or extracts
might be useful as agents for the treatment of osteoporosis. In addition, the regular consumption of
pomegranate may benefit the skeletal tissues of the host .
Pomegranate has also been proposed for the maintenance of dental health. Streptococcus mutans
is one of the major microorganisms of dental flora, and it is capable of producing acids, soluble
extracellular polysaccharides, and insoluble extracellular polysaccharides, as well as forming
biofilms. An in vitro study showed that pomegranate peel extracts are capable of inhibiting the
growth of cariogenic bacteria at high concentrations (up to 12.5–25.0 mg/mL); however, these
concentrations are difficult to maintain in the oral cavity because of the constant saliva flow. In lower
concentrations, these extracts have been shown to inhibit biofilm formation, acid production, and
extracellular polysaccharides production by S. mutans, showing these extracts’ potential to prevent
dental caries . In another study, pomegranate peel and juice extracts presented inhibitory effects,
not only against S. mutans but also against Rothia dentocariosa, which has been found on the carious
lesions of human teeth and may cause several diseases like endocarditis, pneumonia and infections
of the peritoneum and lung .
3.2. Studies Using Mice Models
Apart from in vitro studies that have used pomegranate juice and extracts, there have also been
several studies that have used mice models (Table 4).
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Table 4. Recent health-related pomegranate studies that used mice models.
Derivative Effect References
fruit ↓of progression of cognitive and behavioral
impairments in Alzheimer’s disease 
whole fruit extract anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects 
whole fruit extract ↓apoptosis and inflammation in liver cells 
peel polysaccharide ↓weight loss and ↑immune organ index of
immunosuppressed mice 
peel polysaccharide protection against CCl4-induced liver injury 
pomegranate aril extract inhibition of contact hypersensitivity of allergic
juice ↑hypoxia-induced fetal growth and ↓apoptosis in the
placenta in pregnant mice 
juice neuroprotection and protection against oxidative
damage in Parkinson’s disease rat model 
juice antileishmanial activity, probably by boosting the
endogenous antioxidant activity in female BALB/c mice 
leaf ↓total serum cholesterol and triglycerides of
hyperlipidemic mice 
peel extract contribution in prevention and treatment of Giardia
lamblia infection 
peel extract preventing bone loss associated with ovariectomy in
3.2.1. Obesity, Diabetes
The pomegranate and especially its extracts have attracted the attention of the research
community due to their numerous health benefits, some of them associated with obesity. Several
mouse intervention studies have demonstrated that pomegranate extracts can decrease inflammation
and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in high-fat diet-induced obese mice [76,77] and can
reduce hepatic lipid peroxidation and serum glucose levels in healthy rats, in addition to improving
glycemic control and increased relative beta cell number in alloxan-induced diabetic rats [78,79]. In a
recent study, the combination of pomegranate extracts with inulin led to enhanced cholesterol-
lowering effects . In addition, in the same study, the mechanism of the pomegranate extracts’
action was revealed—more specifically, they lowered cholesterol by increasing bile acid synthesis.
Furthermore, punicalagin reduces the high-fat diet-induced accumulation of cardiac triglyceride and
cholesterol in obese rats via adenosine monophosphate (AMP)–activated protein kinase (AMPK)
activation . Finally, pomegranate leaf extracts can inhibit lipid absorption and reduce blood
triglycerides and total cholesterol in hyperlipidemic mice by inhibiting lipase activity .
3.2.2. Prevention and Treatment of Infections
The pomegranate and its products have been evaluated as agents for the prevention and even
treatment of several bacterial or virus infections in mice model systems. Coccidiosis, the most
prevalent disease, especially in poultry farms, causes widespread economic loss. The use of
pomegranate peel extracts on the outcome of coccidiosis in mice has been found to attenuate
inflammation and injury of the jejunum that is induced by Eimeria papillata infections . In a similar
study, treatment with a pomegranate peel extract decreased the pathogenicity of Citrobacter rodentium
infections in mice, suggesting an alteration of the microbiome, making it more resistant to Citrobacter
rodentium . Citrobacter rodentium mimics many aspects of human enteropathogenic Escherichia coli
infections and is therefore used in several studies with mice. A pomegranate peel extract (containing
punicalin, punicalagin, and ellagic acid) reduced Citrobacter rodentium infection-induced weight loss
and colon damage that correlated with a decreased mortality and reduced colonization of the spleen
Foods 2020, 9, 122 9 of 22
. In addition, a pomegranate peel extract proved to be valuable in the prevention and treatment
of Giardia lamblia infection (giardiasis) of the human small intestine . These studies indicate that
pomegranate polyphenols may mitigate the pathogenic effects of food-borne bacterial pathogens.
3.2.3. Other Health Benefits
The addition of pomegranates in the diet may slow the progression of cognitive and behavioral
impairments in Alzheimer’s disease , while pomegranate extracts have been shown to have anti-
inflammatory and antioxidant effects on cecal ligation and puncture-induced acute liver injury ;
they have also been shown to protect against arsenic-induced inflammation and apoptosis in the liver
cells of male Swiss albino mice . Another important product of the pomegranate with several
health benefits is the pomegranate peel polysaccharides (rhamnose, glucuronic acid, galacturonic
acid, glucose and xylose), which may be used in efficacious adjacent immunopotentiating therapy or
an alternative means in lessening chemotherapy-induced immunosuppression; they can also be
utilized as immunostimulants for the food and pharmaceutical industries . Several studies have
shown that pomegranate peel polysaccharides may enhance the immunomodulatory effect, induced
by cyclophosphamide, of immunosuppressed mice , exhibit a strong protective effects against
CCl4-induced liver injury in mice , and, at low doses, alleviate contact hypersensitivity symptoms,
suggesting that they may provide beneficial effects on allergic contact dermatitis at physiologically
relevant doses in humans .
3.3. Human Studies
The significance of pomegranate health benefits has been revealed by its adaption in several
human-based studies (Table 5). The consumption of pomegranate juice for a period of eight weeks
showed beneficial effects on blood pressure, serum triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein
cholesterol, oxidative stress and inflammation in hemodialysis patients . In patients with type 2
diabetes, a consumption of 1.5 mL/kg body weight reduced serum erythropoietin level after three
hours , while a 200 mL/day consumption for six weeks reduced systolic and diastolic blood
pressure without affecting the lipid profile . In addition, the daily consumption of pomegranate
juice (230 mL) has been associated with the stabilization of the ability to learn visual information over
a 12 month period . The consumption of pomegranate juice has also been proposed to athletes,
and a systematic study for a 21 day period showed an improvement in malondialdehyde and
carbonyls levels, and, thus, a decrease of the oxidative damage caused by exercise . Finally,
pomegranate juice has been associated with a reduction of inflammation, muscle damage, and an
increase of platelets blood levels in healthy people . A 30 day supplementation with pomegranate
extracts in individuals with overweight and obesity beneficially affected body weight, serum glucose,
insulin, triglyceride, total cholesterol, LDL–C, HDL–C (high-density lipoprotein–cholesterol) and
LDL–C to HDL–C proportion, while also acting as an anti-inflammatory agent, lowering
inflammatory and lipid peroxidation biomarkers . An eight week supplementation with
pomegranate peel extracts attenuated the systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with type
2 diabetes and also presented hypolipemic, hypoglycemic, and antioxidative potential . Finally,
clinical studies with pomegranate seed oil in type 2 diabetic patients have resulted in reductions in
the levels of fasting blood sugar, interleukin-6 and TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-α); however, no
significant changes have been observed in insulin and lipid profiles [93,94].
Foods 2020, 9, 122 10 of 22
Table 5. Recent health-related pomegranate studies in humans.
Derivative Subject Effect References
whole fruit extract overweight and
anti-inflammatory effect; ↓body
weight, serum glucose, total
cholesterol, LDL; ↑HDL
improved blood pressure, serum
triglycerides, HDL, oxidative stress
juice humans with
type 2 diabetes ↓serum erythropoietin level 
juice humans with
type 2 diabetes ↓systolic and diastolic blood pressure 
juice healthy adults maintains visual memory skills 
athletes modulation of fat and protein damage 
juice active healthy
↓systolic blood pressure, creatinine
and muscle damage parameters 
seed oil humans with
type 2 diabetes ↓levels of fasting blood sugar [93,94]
peel extract humans with
type 2 diabetes
antioxidative potential 
peel extract patients with
↓systolic blood pressure, LDL, total
cholesterol; ↑HDL 
reverts high-density lipoprotein-
induced endothelial dysfunction and
4. Applications in Food Products
The pomegranate, as has been mentioned above, is considered to be a fruit with many beneficial
properties that mainly affect health. In addition, many of its sensory properties, such as color and
aroma, present great interest in the food industry and can be utilized in many ways. Many researchers
have studied the effect of pomegranate addition in the properties of several foods products, such as
dairy products (Table 6), films and coatings for food packaging (Table 7), meat and fish products
(Table 8), and cereal and nuts products (Table 9).
Table 6. Recent studies on the effect of the addition of pomegranate derivatives to dairy products.
Derivative Product Effect References
juice kefir-type ↑viscosity; ↑acidity 
juice powder yogurt ↑total phenolics; ↑antioxidant
activity; ↑solid-like behavior 
peel extract cheese ↑lipid oxidative stability; ↑storage
powder fermented milk ↑total phenolics; ↑antioxidant activity 
powder cheese ↑antioxidant activity; ↑shelf life 
powder freeze-dried yogurt ↑total phenolics; ↑antioxidant activity 
seed powder yogurt ↑antioxidant activity; fatty acid
profile improvement 
Foods 2020, 9, 122 11 of 22
Table 7. Recent studies on the application of pomegranate derivatives to films and coatings.
Derivative Product Effect References
peel extract zein-based film (cheese) ↑tensile strength; ↑antioxidant and
antimicrobial activity 
chitosan coating (rainbow
trout, pacific white shrimp,
improvement of functional
characteristics of coatings;
improvement of sensory
characteristics and ↑shelf life of food
peel powder starch-based films better mechanical properties;
antimicrobial activity 
peel extract chitosan/locust gum
inhibition of Penicillium digitatum;
↑shelf-life of oranges 
peel extract surimi-based films superior mechanical properties;
improved thermal stability 
juice bitter vetch seed protein
antioxidant activity; improvement of
physicochemical properties 
Table 8. Recent studies on the effect of the addition of pomegranate derivatives to meat and fish
Derivative Product Effect References
peel powder meatballs ↑antioxidant activity; ↓lipid and protein
oxidation; ↑microbial quality 
peel powder beef sausage quality criteria improvement; improvement
of cooking characteristics 
juice powder raw ground chicken ↓heat resistance of E. coli 
peel extract pacific white shrimp ↓lipid oxidation; ↓melanosis; ↓microbial
extract fish patties ↑shelf-life 
extract pork sausage
controlling microbial growth and oxidation;
Table 9. Recent studies on the effect of the addition of pomegranate derivatives to cereal and nut
Derivative Product Effect References
peel extract hazelnut paste ↑shelf life; delay oxidation 
peel extract cookies ↑shelf life; ↑antioxidant activity;
↑panelist acceptance (odor, color) 
seed powder gluten-free bread ↑specific volume and springiness;
↑antioxidant activity 
seed powder gluten-free cake ↑antioxidant activity, protein and fiber;
↓peroxide value 
seed powder gluten-free sheeted pasts ↑antioxidant activity; ↓cooking and
textural parameters 
4.1. Dairy Products
Pomegranate juice, in the form of powder, may be used in yogurt production, mainly as a
replacer of sucrose content. The addition of pomegranate juice powder (5%) has been shown to lead
to a product with an increased total phenolic content, an increased antioxidant activity, and a higher
in vitro bio-accessibility. Furthermore, it has also been shown to positively affect the sensory
characteristics of the product, resulting in a more solid-like behavior mainly due to phenolic–protein
Foods 2020, 9, 122 12 of 22
interactions . In a similar study with kefir-like products, the addition of fresh juice (5%) resulted
in products with an increased viscosity and acidity; however, the addition of honey was necessary in
order to improve the sweetness .
The addition of a pomegranate peel extract is another way to add the beneficial properties of
pomegranate to dairy products. This extract is mainly used to increase the antioxidant activity of the
products, as well as their storage shelf life [100,101]. In addition, it has been used in cheese production
and has resulted in improved lipid oxidative stability and storage quality . However, the addition
of this extract may lead to negative alterations of the sensory characteristics of the products, mainly
due to its high astringency and bitterness . In general, the pomegranate peel extract may be used
as a promising natural preservative in fermented dairy products, though it should be used in low
concentrations in order to avoid the adversarial effect on sensory attributes. The addition of honey
may reduce these effects and improve the acceptability of these products, as in the case of freeze-
dried yogurt .
Pomegranate seed powder, which is rich in conjugated linolenic acids, has also been
incorporated in dairy products like yogurt. Compared to a control, yogurt enriched with 0.5% (w/v)
pomegranate seed powder showed similar nutritional and pH values, higher antioxidant activities,
desirable fatty acid and conjugated linolenic acids contents, and lower atherogenicity indexes .
4.2. Films and Coatings
No wad ays , the re is an in crea se of inte res t fo r the development of novel food packaging materials
and, especially, edible packaging materials. Pomegranate components have been used in the
development of such products due to their increased phenolic content and antioxidant properties.
Several films and coatings have been developed by incorporating pomegranate peel extracts. A zein-
based film has been produced by incorporating pomegranate peel extracts at concentrations up to 75
mg/mL of film . The addition of pomegranate peel extracts leads to the increased tensile strength,
elongation at break, total phenolic content and antioxidant activity of zein films, whereas film
solubility and water vapor transmission rate decrease and thickness remains constant. This film has
been shown to present inhibitory activity against several pathogenic bacteria and has been used for
the packaging of cheese, inhibiting the growth of spoilage microorganisms but not affecting lactic
acid bacteria. In addition, cheese, with zein-pomegranate packaging, has low protein and lipid
oxidation products during storage compared to cheese that is packaged with zein film without
pomegranate peel extracts.
Chitosan is a cationic polysaccharide that is obtained by the deacetylation of chitin, and, due to
its biodegradability, biocompatibility, antimicrobial activity and non-toxicity, is considered a very
promising and eco-friendly material for different purposes, including food coatings systems . In
addition, pomegranate peel extracts have been proven capable of improving the functional
characteristics of chitosan-based materials by enhancing the desired properties for their potential
application as food coatings . Chitosan-based coatings with incorporated pomegranate peel
extracts have been used in several products, such as rainbow trout , pacific white shrimp 
and strawberries . In all studies, an improvement in sensory characteristics of the final product
has been reported in combination with an extension of shelf life. More specifically, in the case of
pacific white shrimps, an inhibition of melanosis has been reported, while a decrease of lipid and
protein oxidation has been reported in rainbow trout.
Pomegranate peel powder has also been used for the preparation of edible films based on starch
. The powder has been used as an antimicrobial and reinforcing agent. The new film has
presented inhibitory actions against both Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella. The addition of
pomegranate peel powder in a starch based matrix has also exhibited better mechanical properties
by enhancing the stiffness, modulus, tensile strength and drop impact strength of the matrix. Another
edible coating material based on chitosan or/and locust bean gum with an incorporated pomegranate
peel extract was developed to control the growth of Penicillium digitatum and to reduce the
postharvest decay of oranges . The results showed that the addition of a pomegranate peel
extract reduced disease incidence by up to 49% on oranges that were artificially inoculated with P.
Foods 2020, 9, 122 13 of 22
digitatum. Pomegranate peel extracts have also been used to formulate surimi-based edible films with
superior mechanical and water barrier properties and improved thermal stability for food packaging
. The antioxidant activity of bitter vetch seed protein edible films was increased with the addition
of pomegranate juice to the film, which formed a solution that resulted in a material with great
potential in the active packaging of food systems . Apart from antioxidant activity, the presence
of pomegranate juice has also been shown to affect some physicochemical properties of films. More
specifically, the films have shown higher total soluble matter, elongation at break, and water vapor
permeability, as well as a lower tensile strength, in comparison with control films prepared in the
absence of pomegranate juice. In addition, film morphology has been shown to markedly change,
with the film surface becoming considerably smoother and with a high number of pores. The
interactions in the film forming solution between bitter vetch proteins and the phenolic compounds
that are contained in pomegranate juice may be responsible for the observed changes in film
4.3. Antimicrobial and Antifungal Agent in Fruits and Juices
The great antimicrobial activity of pomegranate has attracted the interest of researchers to use
the fruit as a natural antimicrobial agent or even a preservative in fruits and their juices. In vitro
studies of pomegranate peel extracts have revealed their strong antifungal activity against Botrytis
cinerea, Penicillium digitatum and Penicillium expansum . Furthermore, when used in artificially
inoculated fruits, pomegranate has proven very effective in inhibiting P. digitatum and Penicillium
italicum in lemons, P. italicum in grapefruits, and P. expansum in apples. However, pomegranate
extracts have also been used in fruit juice due to their antimicrobial properties. For example, a
commercial pomegranate extract (POMELLA®, PE) has successfully been used against Alicyclobacillus
acidoterrestris cells and spores in apple juice .
4.4. Meat and Fish Products
Meat products are very susceptible to undesirable alterations during processing and storage,
which result in extensive flavor changes, color loss, and protein structure damage, all of which reduce
sensory parameters and consumer acceptability . All these undesirable changes are mainly
caused by three different biochemical pathways—lipid oxidation, protein decomposition, and
microbial contamination—that are more pronounced in minced meats . Therefore, pomegranate
has been evaluated as an additive in meat products in order to suppress the development of these
Lyophilized pomegranate peel nanoparticles, which have a high phenolic content and
antioxidant capacity, were evaluated as antioxidant and antimicrobial additives (up to 1.5%) in
meatballs during storage at 4 °C for up to 15 days. The results demonstrated that lyophilized
pomegranate peel nanoparticles were more effective in retarding lipid oxidation and improving the
microbial quality and cooking characteristics of meatballs compared to samples with 0.01% butylated
hydroxytoluene (BHT) and without any treatment . Furthermore, these samples were more
sensorially acceptable. In a similar study, the use of pomegranate peel powder (up to 3%) was proven
to be effective as a natural preservative in producing high quality beef sausage samples during a
storage period of 12 days at 4 °C . The addition of pomegranate peel powder caused a high
storage stability and reduced values of the thiobarbituric acid and total volatile nitrogen of prepared
beef sausage samples during refrigerated storage. The microbiological criteria of the prepared beef
sausage samples with pomegranate peel powder were also improved. In addition, improvements of
cooking characteristics, e.g., cooking loss, cooking yield, change in diameter, and change in length,
were also reported. A high-ellagic acid commercial pomegranate powder has also been used to
reduce the heat resistance of Escherichia coli O104:H4 in ground chicken . Indeed, the time to
reach a 5.0 log reduction reached a minimum at a pomegranate powder concentration of 1%,
producing a 50% decrease in lethality time in comparison to that without added pomegranate
powder. This result, in combination with the reported inhibition of formation of carcinogenic
Foods 2020, 9, 122 14 of 22
aromatic amines by a pomegranate seed extract , implies that pomegranate formulations might
concurrently inhibit both pathogens and heterocyclic amines in processed meat and poultry products.
Pomegranate peel extracts could potentially be used as natural antioxidant and antibacterial
agents in fish products. For example, when shrimps were soaked in methanolic pomegranate peel
extracts for 15 min, melanosis, microbial growth, and lipid oxidation could be retarded for up to six
days of refrigerated storage . The inhibitory activity followed a dose-dependent manner. In
another study, fish patties made with natural extracts, including pomegranate, showed a lower lipid
oxidation and, as a result, had an extended shelf life for 11 days of storage under retail display
conditions . Furthermore, pomegranate presented a high inhibition against Listeria
4.5. Cereal and Nuts Products
Pomegranate peel extracts, either in crude or encapsulated form, were mixed with hazelnut
paste in order to extend the shelf life of the product through the inhibition of lipid oxidation .
An inhibition of lipid oxidation with a reduced formation of peroxides and a limited solubility of the
crude extract in the high lipid content matrix of hazelnut paste were reported. In a similar study,
pomegranate peel extracts, which were encapsulated by spray-drying when using orange juice
industry by-products as wall materials, were used to fortify cookies with an increased phenolic
content and oil oxidation stability . The antioxidant activity of the enriched cookies remained at
high levels throughout the whole storage time, and they were preferred for their color and odor by
the panelists during sensory evaluation.
Pomegranate seed powder was incorporated in gluten-free bread in order to increase its total
phenolic content and antioxidant activity . The results showed that pomegranate seed powder
increased the specific volume and springiness of gluten-free breads, whereas their hardness and
chewiness decreased significantly with increasing powder additions. In addition, decreases of
lightness and yellowness of crumb and crust color, as well as an increase of redness, were reported.
In general, the optimum gluten-free bread with the best physical characteristics and high antioxidant
properties was found with the use of 7.5% of pomegranate seed powder. Following that trend,
pomegranate seed powder has also been used for the production of gluten-free cake  and gluten-
free (GF) sheeted pasta . Gluten-free cake (containing 25.75% pomegranate seed powder and
0.97% transglutaminase) showed higher total antioxidant activity, ash, fiber, protein and moisture
contents, as well as a lower peroxide value, volume index and porosity . In the case of sheeted
pasta, an increase of the antioxidant activity reported, but the addition of pomegranate seed powder
affected cooking and textural parameters. In general, the lowest concentration of pomegranate seed
powder had the lowest effect, and, therefore, gluten-free pasta that was incorporated with up to 7.5%
of pomegranate seed powder resulted in a good acceptability .
5. Conclusions and Future Perspectives
In recent years, the food industry’s demand for antioxidants from natural sources has
continuously grown, especially now with the increased numbers of adverse toxicological reports on
many synthetic compounds. Therefore, pomegranate, which presents extremely high antioxidant and
antimicrobial properties, has a great potential for applications in food products. The application of
pomegranate and its extracts, mainly as antioxidants and antimicrobials, has been extensively studied
in different types of food products and has shown very promising results. In addition, many studies
have shown that these additives can positively affect the overall sensory quality, and hence the shelf
life, of food products.
Though pomegranate is a food and is therefore regarded as safe, this judgement is not applied
to its extracts, such as its peel and seed extracts, and further research is needed to determine their
safe limits . Therefore, several studies have been carried out and must continue to be carried out
in order to ascertain the safe use of these edible natural compounds.
On the other hand, pomegranate juice and the wide variety of compounds derived from it have
been the focus of many in vitro and in vivo studies that have revealed their beneficial physiological
Foods 2020, 9, 122 15 of 22
activities, especially their antioxidative, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. These
studies have concluded that the regular consumption of pomegranate fruit, juice, or even its
compounds added in other food products acts beneficially for one’s health and may even protect
against or improve the course of several diseases like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and
even some cancer types.
Future studies should be focused on the identification of the mechanisms that are associated
with the previously mentioned activities of pomegranate and its products, its possible synergistic
effects with other compounds of foods, and, most importantly, its possible interactions with the gut
microflora of hosts. All these studies will provide all the necessary scientific evidence that is required
in order to fully understand the potential of pomegranate as a source of natural food preservatives
and a therapeutic agent.
Author Contributions: Conceptualization, P.K.; writing—original draft preparation, E.K. and P.K.; writing—
review and editing, P.K.; supervision, P.K.; project administration, P.K.; funding acquisition, P.K. All authors
have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
Funding: We acknowledge support of this work by the project “Research Infrastructure on Food Bioprocessing
Development and Innovation Exploitation—Food Innovation RI” (MIS 5027222), which is implemented under
the Action “Reinforcement of the Research and Innovation Infrastructure”, funded by the Operational Program
“Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation” (NSRF 2014–2020) and co-financed by Greece and the
European Union (European Regional Development Fund).
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the
study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to
publish the results.
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