Drinking pomegranate juice during pregnancy can improve brain development and connectivity in unborn babies.
Pomegranate juice is a particularly rich source of polyphenols, which cross the blood-brain barrier.
Polyphenols, which contain tonic acid and ellagitannin, are a part of the antioxidants found in many foods and beverages, including nuts, berries, red wine, and tea.
“Our study provides preliminary evidence suggesting potential protective effects for newborns exposed to pomegranate during pregnancy,” said Terry Inder Brigham, senior author of the study and from Women’s Hospital in the US.
“These investigations are ongoing on the potential neuroprotective effects of polyphenols in newborns at risk, such as hypoxic-ischemic injury,” Inder said.
In a study published in the PLOS One journal, the team demonstrates its preliminary results from a clinical trial of expectant mothers whose children suffer from intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).
In IUGR cases, the baby in the womb is measuring smaller in gestational age, often due to complications with the mother, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the growing fetus. One in every 10 babies is thought to have an IUGR.
The current randomized, controlled study evaluated 78 mothers with IUGR during 24-43 weeks gestation.
Women were randomized to receive eight ounces of pomegranate juice or a polyphenol-free flavor / calorie-matched placebo daily. Women drink juice on a regular basis from registration to delivery.
The team measures many aspects of brain development and trauma, including infant brain macrostructure, microstructural organization, and functional connectivity.
Although the team did not observe differences in brain macrostructure, they did find regional differences in white matter microstructure and functional connectivity.
“These measures tell us how the brain is functioning. We have not seen a difference in brain growth and infant growth, but we have seen the development of the cabling network and brain development as measured by contemporary blood flow and visual development of the brain,” Inder said.