What It Is, How It Works, and Food Sources

Ellagic acid may not be a household name, yet this powerful polyphenol has been associated…

Ellagic acid may not be a household name, yet this powerful polyphenol has been associated with a long list of impressive health benefits.

In particular, studies show that ellagic acid may decrease cancer cell growth, alleviate inflammation, and protect brain function.

Plus, it’s found in many food sources and often featured in your supplements and skin care products.

This article takes a closer look at ellagic acid to explore what it is, how it works, and how you can increase your intake.

Ellagic acid is an antioxidant found naturally in many of your favorite foods, including many fruits and vegetables.

Some foods also contain a compound called ellagitannin, which your body converts into ellagic acid (1).

Ellagic acid has been studied for its beneficial health effects. In fact, research shows that it may boast powerful anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting properties (2).

What’s more, some animal and human studies suggest that it may be useful for the treatment and prevention of conditions like type 2 diabetes, cancer, and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s (3, 4, 5).

In addition to food sources, ellagic acid is widely available in supplement form. You can also find it in many skin care products, thanks to its ability to reduce hyperpigmentation (6, 7).

summary

Ellagic acid is an antioxidant found in many food sources, supplements, and skin care products. It has been studied for its anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting properties and may be beneficial for a variety of chronic health conditions.

Ellagic acid acts as an antioxidant, meaning that it can neutralize harmful compounds known as free radicals to protect your cells from damage and oxidative stress (8).

It may also help regulate your immune function and decrease several specific markers of inflammation, including prostaglandin E2 and interleukin 6 (9, 10).

Sustaining high levels of inflammation long-term may contribute to a number of chronic conditions, including cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders (11).

Test-tube and animal studies have also found that ellagic acid may help preserve brain function and decrease cancer cell growth thanks to its potent antioxidant properties (12, 13, 14).

What’s more, some research shows that it can lighten your skin by blocking the activity of a specific enzyme involved in the production of melanin, a type of skin pigment (6).

summary

Ellagic acid acts as an antioxidant and can decrease levels of inflammation to protect against disease. It may also help lighten your skin by blocking the activity of an enzyme involved in melanin production.

Multiple studies show that ellagic acid may have powerful cancer-fighting properties.

According to one review of in vitro and in vivo evidence, ellagic acid may inhibit the growth and spread of tumors while killing cancer cells (12).

Additionally, it may increase tumors’ sensitivity to chemotherapy and radiation, enhancing the effectiveness of these cancer treatments (12).

In particular, test-tube studies show that ellagic acid may help protect against several types of cancer, including breast, bladder, prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer (15, 16, 17, 18, 19).

However, keep in mind that most research on the effects of ellagic acid specifically have been conducted in test-tubes or animals and use very high doses of ellagic acid.

While some studies in humans also suggest that pomegranate juice or extract, which is rich in ellagic acid, may be beneficial against prostate and colorectal cancer, it’s unclear whether other compounds found in pomegranate may also play a role (20, 21, 22).

summary

Ellagic acid may slow the growth and spread of certain types of cancer cells, but more research in humans is needed.

You can buy ellagic acid supplements at local natural health stores and via online retailers. Health stores often market ellagic acid as a natural remedy for cancer and bacterial or viral infections.

Ellagic acid is also commonly found in supplements like pomegranate extract, which typically contains 250–500 mg of ellagic acid per serving.

Although there are no official dosage recommendations for ellagic acid, some studies estimate that ellagic acid may be most effective at doses ranging from 30–850 mg (23).

However, some research suggests that your body may not absorb ellagic acid from supplements as effectively as it absorbs ellagic acid from food sources. This may limit ellagic acid supplements’ potential health benefits (24).

Additionally, if you’re taking any other medications or have any underlying health conditions, it’s best to talk with your doctor before starting these supplements, as ellagic acid may not be suitable for everyone.

summary

Ellagic acid supplements are widely available. Studies suggest that ellagic acid may be most effective in doses ranging from 30-850 mg, but it may not be well absorbed by the body via supplement form, which could limit its effectiveness.

You can find ellagic acid naturally in a variety of food sources, including certain types of fruits and tree nuts.

Some of the richest food sources of ellagic acid include (23):

  • pomegranates
  • apples
  • grapes
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • cranberries
  • cloudberries
  • walnuts
  • pistachios
  • cashews
  • pecans

Keep in mind that you would have to eat very high amounts of these foods to obtain the amount of ellagic acid found in supplements.

According to one older study, the average daily intake of ellagic acid was 44 mg and 55 mg for men and women, respectively, among American adults meeting the recommendations for daily fruit and vegetable consumption (25).

summary

Ellagic acid is found in many types of fruits and tree nuts. However, you would need to consume very high amounts of these foods to obtain the same dosages used in studies.

When eaten in food sources like fruits and tree nuts, ellagic acid is generally considered safe.

Although there’s limited research on the safety of ellagic supplements, studies suggest that they may be associated with very few side effects when you use them as directed (5, 26).

Still, ellagic acid may inhibit cytochrome P450s, a group of enzymes involved in the metabolism of many types of medications (27).

As such, if you’re taking any medications that are metabolized by these enzymes, which includes many types of statins, antipsychotics, and blood thinners, you should talk with your doctor before using ellagic acid supplements (28).

summary

Ellagic acid is safe when consumed as part of a healthy diet. However, ellagic acid supplements may interfere with certain medications by blocking the action of a specific group of enzymes.

Ellagic acid is a type of antioxidant found naturally in many foods, including fruits and nuts.

Although studies show that it may have cancer-fighting properties and improve several other aspects of health, more research is needed.

Additionally, while adding more foods rich in ellagic acid to your diet may be beneficial, there’s limited research on the safety and effectiveness of ellagic acid supplements.

As such, it’s best to consult your doctor before taking ellagic acid.