If you have osteoarthritis, eating pomegranates can help. A Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine study shows that extract of pomegranate fruit inhibits Interleukin-1b (IL-1b), a pro-inflammatory protein molecule that plays a key role in cartilage degradation.

Of the various forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common. It involves the breakdown of joint cartilage “and may affect any joint in your body, including those in your fingers, hips, knees, lower back and feet,” according to the Web site of the Mayo Clinic. “Initially osteoarthritis may strike only one joint. But if your fingers are affected, multiple hand joints may become arthritic.”

Plant-based flavonoids found in fruits, leaves and vegetables have attracted much attention for their beneficial health effects in various diseases. Pomegranate, in particular, has been found to possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that have potential therapeutic benefits in a variety of diseases.

The Case study demonstrated for the first time the ability of pomegranate fruit extracts to slow the deterioration of human cartilage.

“[Pomegranate] has been revered through the ages for its medicinal properties,” said Tariq M. Haqqi, Ph.D., professor of medicine at Case, in a university press release.

“Studies in animal models of cancer suggest that pomegranate fruit extract consumption may be anticarcinogenic, whereas studies in mice and humans indicate that it may also have a potential therapeutic and chemopreventive adjuvant effect in cardiovascular disorders.”

Results of the study were published in the September issue of the Journal of Nutrition.