Pineapple is a delicious tropical fruit that contains a diverse array of nutrients and antioxidants. Some research suggests that pineapples may have anti-inflammatory properties due to their content of bromelain, a mixture of proteolytic enzymes that can break down proteins. This article reviews the evidence on whether pineapples and their components can reduce inflammation.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a normal immune response triggered by the body to protect against infection, irritation, and injury. When tissue is damaged, the body releases various molecules that cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissues, resulting in swelling, redness, heat, and pain. This inflammatory response brings immune cells to the site of injury to promote healing.
However, sometimes inflammation can become chronic and last for long periods of time. This can occur with autoimmune disorders, chronic infections, and conditions like obesity and diabetes. Chronic inflammation is thought to contribute to many diseases and conditions, including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, depression, and cognitive decline.
Finding ways to reduce chronic inflammation is an active area of research. Certain foods and nutrients have been shown to help decrease inflammatory markers in the body.
Pineapples are low in calories but contain a variety of important nutrients:
- Vitamin C – Pineapples are high in vitamin C, providing 131% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) in a single cup. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Manganese – Pineapples contain over 70% of the RDI for manganese in one cup. Manganese is a mineral that acts as a cofactor for antioxidant enzymes.
- Fiber – One cup of pineapples has 2.3 grams of fiber. Fiber promotes gut health and feeds beneficial gut bacteria.
- Bromelain – Pineapples contain a group of digestive enzymes called bromelain that may have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Vitamin B6 – Pineapples provide small amounts of vitamin B6, with one cup delivering 9% of the RDI. Vitamin B6 plays a role in over 100 enzyme reactions in the body.
- Copper – Pineapples contain almost 20% of the RDI for copper in a single cup. Copper helps maintain a healthy immune system and promotes normal tissue repair.
Additionally, pineapples are very low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. The nutrition profile of pineapples makes them a healthy choice as part of a balanced diet.
What is Bromelain?
Bromelain refers to a group of protein-digesting enzymes derived from the stems and fruit of pineapples. It is responsible for the tenderizing effect that pineapples have on meat.
In addition to aiding digestion, bromelain has been used for many years as an anti-inflammatory supplement. It is available in supplement form or can be obtained by eating fresh pineapple or drinking pineapple juice.
Some of the proposed anti-inflammatory mechanisms of bromelain include:
- Inhibiting the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which are inflammatory messengers.
- Suppressing the activation of inflammatory pathways like NF-kB.
- Reducing levels of bradykinin, a molecule that increases vascular permeability and causes edema.
- Blocking the synthesis of fibrin, a protein involved in blood clotting and inflammation.
However, more human research is needed to confirm bromelain’s anti-inflammatory effects.
Animal Research on Pineapple and Inflammation
Preclinical studies in rats, mice, and rabbits provide some early evidence for the anti-inflammatory properties of pineapple and bromelain:
- Pineapple juice reduced inflammation in a rat model of inflammatory bowel disease.
- Bromelain decreased colon damage in mice with colitis by lowering inflammatory cytokines like IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α.
- Pineapple stem extracts reduced paw swelling in mice and rats with induced inflammation.
- Bromelain supplementation lowered blood levels of fibrinogen and C-reactive protein (CRP), two inflammatory markers, in rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet.
Overall, animal and cell studies demonstrate that bromelain and pineapple extracts can decrease markers of inflammation. However, more research is needed to confirm if these effects occur in humans.
Human Research on Pineapples and Inflammation
A limited number of human studies have examined how eating pineapples and taking bromelain supplements affects markers of inflammation:
- In one study in 24 healthy men, eating two cups of pineapple for 2 weeks reduced inflammation and platelet aggregation. These anti-clotting effects were attributed to bromelain.
- Bromelain supplements decreased knee pain, stiffness, and physical impairment in people with moderate arthritis in several studies. Effects on inflammatory markers were mixed.
- Some studies show bromelain can reduce pain, bruising, inflammation, and recovery time after surgery when taken around the time of the procedure. However, results are inconsistent.
- A review of two studies found bromelain supplements lowered CRP, an inflammatory marker, in people with colon cancer or lung infections. Doses ranged from 200-800 mg per day.
- One study in people with asthma found that drinking pineapple juice for 3 months reduced blood levels of prostaglandins and thromboxanes, compounds involved in inflammation.
Overall, human research suggests pineapples and bromelain may have mild anti-inflammatory effects. However, larger, higher-quality studies are needed.
Other Anti-Inflammatory Compounds in Pineapples
In addition to bromelain, pineapples contain other nutrients and plant compounds that may fight inflammation:
- Vitamin C – Pineapples are packed with vitamin C, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Beta-carotene – Pineapples contain this antioxidant carotenoid, which may reduce inflammation.
- Rutin – This bioflavonoid found in pineapples has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activities.
- Anthocyanins – Red pineapple varieties provide these antioxidant pigments that can suppress inflammatory signaling pathways.
The combination of nutrients and plant compounds in pineapples may provide synergistic anti-inflammatory effects.
Anti-Inflammatory Pineapple Smoothie Recipe
You can take advantage of the potential anti-inflammatory properties of pineapple by incorporating it into a delicious smoothie:
- 1 cup pineapple chunks
- 1 cup coconut water or almond milk
- 1/2 banana
- 1/2 cup spinach
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- Ice cubes
- Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- Add more liquid if necessary to reach desired consistency.
- Enjoy cold!
This smoothie provides a delicious dose of pineapple plus other nutrient-rich anti-inflammatory ingredients like spinach, chia seeds, and turmeric.
Potential Side Effects of Pineapples and Bromelain
For most people, eating pineapple and taking bromelain supplements is safe with a low risk of side effects. However, some precautions apply:
- Pineapple may cause reactions in those allergic to latex, honey, wheat, celery, or pollen due to cross-reactivity of allergens.
- Large amounts of bromelain may interact with some medications, including antibiotics and blood thinners. Speak to a healthcare provider before taking high-dose bromelain supplements.
- Bromelain can thin the blood so should be avoided in the weeks before surgery. It may also increase the risk of bruising and bleeding during and after procedures.
- Some people report digestive upset, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain from eating pineapple or taking bromelain, especially in large doses.
Overall, enjoy pineapple and bromelain supplements in moderation as part of an anti-inflammatory diet. Be cautious about overdoing it on pineapple due to its high acidity.
Here is a summary of the evidence related to pineapples, bromelain, and inflammation:
- Pineapples are nutritious tropical fruits that provide bromelain, a group of anti-inflammatory enzymes that break down proteins.
- Bromelain may reduce inflammation by inhibiting inflammatory compounds and pathways, based on animal studies.
- Limited human research shows pineapples and bromelain supplements may decrease inflammatory markers, especially CRP and prostaglandins.
- However, larger and higher-quality human studies are needed to confirm anti-inflammatory effects.
- Pineapples also contain vitamin C, beta-carotene, rutin, and anthocyanins that add to their anti-inflammatory capacity.
- Enjoy pineapples in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle to fight inflammation.
While promising, current evidence does not yet confirm definitively that pineapples and their components can significantly reduce inflammation in humans. But adding pineapples to your diet provides other health benefits thanks to their diverse mix of nutrients and antioxidants.
Discuss taking bromelain supplements with your healthcare provider to determine if they may be beneficial for lowering chronic inflammation.
Additionally, be sure to speak with a doctor if you have symptoms of uncontrolled inflammation to determine the underlying cause and best treatment options.
Lifestyle measures like maintaining a healthy body weight, quitting smoking, reducing stress, exercising regularly, and optimizing your sleep and nutrition can all help fight inflammation alongside a diet high in fruits and vegetables like antioxidant-rich pineapples.
|Food||Serving Size||Bromelain Content|
|Pineapple juice||1 cup||1890 GDU*|
|Pineapple||1 cup chunks||1300 GDU*|
|Pineapple stem||100g||3300-4100 GDU*|
*GDU = Gelatin Digesting Units, a measure of bromelain enzyme activity
As you can see from the data table, pineapple stem contains the highest concentration of bromelain, followed by pineapple juice and pineapple fruit. Enzyme activity is measured in GDUs or gelatin digesting units.
To maximize anti-inflammatory benefits, consume fresh pineapple juice or fruit. The core and stem also provide concentrated bromelain, but may be less palatable. Alternatively, take a bromelain supplement standardized to 2000-3000 GDU if using for anti-inflammatory purposes.
Pair pineapple with anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish, walnuts, olive oil, leafy greens, berries, and turmeric as part of an overall inflammation-fighting diet. Avoid pro-inflammatory foods like refined carbs, fried foods, and processed meat when trying to reduce inflammation.
Incorporate pineapple and other antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies as part of a healthy lifestyle for the best chance of lowering inflammation and promoting overall health.