Israeli fruit hybrid lowers cholesterol

Hebrew University scientist Dr. Shela Gorinstein and Kaplan Hospital’s Prof. Abraham Caspi display the subject of their latest research – the pomelit.The juice of the pomelit – a fruit developed in Israel (a hybrid of a grapefruit and a pomelo) …

Hebrew University scientist Dr. Shela Gorinstein and Kaplan Hospital’s Prof. Abraham Caspi display the subject of their latest research – the pomelit.The juice of the pomelit – a fruit developed in Israel (a hybrid of a grapefruit and a pomelo) – has been shown to lower blood cholesterol and increase antioxidant activity. This is good news for the 37 million American adults who have high blood cholesterol levels, and 105 million who have cholesterol levels that are higher than desirable (hypercholesterolemia).

Marketed internationally as Jaffa ‘Sweetie Juice’, the pomelit juice improves the chances of preventing blocked heart arteries and heart attacks among its consumers, according to research conducted by renown Hebrew University scientist Dr. Shela Gorinstein.

These findings were recently published by Gorinstein of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products at the university’s Jerusalem School of Pharmacy in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

The clinical investigation took place at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot among 72 patients and was carried out by a team headed by Prof. Abraham Caspi, head of the Cardiovascular Institute there, in cooperation with other research groups at various universities in Japan, South Korea, Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland that did similar tests. Positive results were obtained by all of the various research groups.

“I’ve worked with Professor Caspi for 20 years, and this is the 15th paper we’ve published,” Gorinstein told ISRAEL21c.

“For the last 25 years, I’ve worked researching different foods and diets and their effects on cholesterol. I’ve done studies on beer, persimmons, exotic fruits like the durian which is grown mostly in Thailand, as well as traditional fruits like apples and pears – all with the goal of finding a diet that will decrease cholesterol.”

A hybrid grapefruit with the appearance and high juice content of the grapefruit and sweet flavor of the pomelo, the Sweetie is known for its particularly high sugar content and very low acidity. The Sweetie ripens between September and March, and is characterized by its changing hue as the season progresses; as the season begins it is green and after the New Year, yellow.

“The pomelit is sweeter than a grapefruit and smaller than a pomelo. It’s much easier to peel, and you can finish one in a sitting unlike the pomelo,” said Gorinstein.

Gorinstein said that she began in vitro studies over four years ago, and found that both in the lab, and in tests on animals, the pomelit lowered the LDL (“Bad”) cholesterol.

The next step was to test the benefits of drinking pomelit juice on humans, The 72 patients at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot who were suffering from hypercholesterolemia (elevated cholesterol levels) and had undergone bypass surgery were given daily supplements of Sweetie juice for 30 days. The patients, who ranged in age from 43 to 71, were divided into three groups of 24 each. One group received a daily supplement of 100 milliliters of the juice; a second received 200 milliliters; and a third – the control group – received none.

The results showed definite lowering of LDL (‘bad’) blood cholesterol and an increase in blood antioxidant activity in patients from the two groups who drank the juice as opposed to those who did not. The patients who consumed the highest daily supplement of juice showed a significant increase in blood albumin and decrease in blood fibrinogen levels, which enhance anticoagulant activity. These positive changes could prevent heart diseases.

Gorinstein concluded the findings with a recommendation that hypercholesterolic patients add fresh Sweetie juice to their daily diets as a likely beneficial preventative to future heart disease. The juice also can serve as a preventative for those who have had no symptoms of arterial occlusion or heart problems but would like to benefit from the prophylactic benefits of this fruit.

Sweetie Juice is manufactured by three different plants in Israel and exported to the rest of the world – primarily the Far East and Europe. American health food stores are beginning to see a concentrate version of the juice, according to a representative of Gat Manufacturers on Kibbutz Givat Haim. Fresh pomelits are exported by Mehadrin Tnuport Export (MTEX), Israel’s largest grower and exporter of citrus.

During her illustrious career, Gorinstein has led a study that for the first time proved that the persimmon fruit can help reduce the risk of clogged arteries (atherosclerosis), which bring about heart disease and strokes – the leading cause of death in the Western world. She has also spent a great deal of effort improving the quality and stability of Israeli wines and beers.

But she said that her research on the pomelit has been among her most gratifying.

“I wanted to work on something Israeli, to promote the fact that we’ve developed unique fruits like this.”