Pineapples are a delicious and nutritious fruit that have been enjoyed around the world for centuries. In recent years, there has been growing interest in the potential anti-inflammatory effects of pineapple and its components. In this article, we’ll explore the evidence behind using pineapple for anti-inflammatory purposes.
Inflammation is a normal immune response triggered by the body to protect against infection, irritation, and injury. Acute or short-term inflammation is a healthy process that helps fight off harmful stimuli. However, chronic or long-term inflammation that doesn’t subside can damage tissues and contribute to various diseases and conditions like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen are commonly used to treat inflammation. But these medications can cause side effects like stomach ulcers, kidney damage, and increased risk of heart attack and stroke with long-term use. Because of this, many people look to natural anti-inflammatory alternatives like nutritional supplements and anti-inflammatory foods.
Fruits like pineapples contain various vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that may help reduce inflammation. Pineapples are particularly rich in bromelain, an enzyme linked to anti-inflammatory effects. This article reviews the research on pineapples and inflammation and discusses the potential benefits and downsides of eating more pineapple to fight inflammation.
Nutrition Profile of Pineapples
Here is an overview of the major nutrients found in 1 cup (165 grams) of fresh pineapple cubes:
|Vitamin C||78.9 mg|
|Vitamin B6||9% DV|
Pineapples are low in calories, fat, and protein. They are comprised mainly of water and carbs. They’re high in vitamin C, providing 131% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) in just one cup. Pineapples also contain decent amounts of manganese, vitamins B6 and folate, copper, thiamin, and other micronutrients.
Anti-Inflammatory Compounds in Pineapple
Pineapples contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that may have anti-inflammatory properties, including:
Bromelain is the name for a group of digestive enzymes found in pineapples. It can be extracted from both the stem and fruit of pineapples. Bromelain is believed to have anti-inflammatory effects by blocking the production of substances that promote inflammation.
Research shows bromelain reduces inflammatory markers like prostaglandin E2 and cytokine levels in animal and cell studies. It may also decrease fibrinogen levels, which could prevent blood clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Test tube studies demonstrate that bromelain has anti-inflammatory effects comparable to NSAID pain relievers like diclofenac and ibuprofen, without side effects on the GI tract.
Pineapples are loaded with vitamin C. One cup provides 131% of the RDI for this essential vitamin and antioxidant. Vitamin C reduces inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP). It also protects against cellular damage caused by oxidative stress, which can drive chronic inflammation.
Pineapples contain beta-carotene, a reddish-orange plant pigment that gives fruits and vegetables their color. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and has powerful antioxidant abilities.
Studies associate high intakes of beta-carotene and vitamin A with lower levels of pro-inflammatory markers like CRP, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α).
Pineapples are a good source of B vitamins, including folate and vitamins B6 and thiamin. B vitamins play diverse roles in energy metabolism and cellular function.
Some research connects low vitamin B6 status to higher inflammatory markers. Folic acid deficiency is also linked to enhanced inflammation.
Manganese is a trace mineral found abundantly in pineapple. Just one cup provides 76% of the RDI for manganese.
Manganese is a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD). Some studies show people with arthritis have lower levels of SOD. Manganese also helps synthesize collagen to support healthy joints.
Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Pineapple in Research
Most of the evidence for pineapple’s anti-inflammatory abilities comes from test tube and animal studies. Very few human studies exist, but here is a summary of the research available:
A study in rats with arthritis found that treatment with bromelain reduced total white blood cell and neutrophil counts. Markers of inflammation and oxidative stress declined while antioxidant levels increased.
Another rat study showed pineapple stem extract suppressed knee swelling and levels of inflammatory chemicals like IL-1β, IL-6, and nitric oxide (NO).
Consuming bromelain from pineapples may minimize exercise-induced inflammation and muscle damage.
In one study, runners who took bromelain experienced significantly less inflammation and muscle soreness in the days following a marathon compared to runners given a placebo.
Sinusitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the sinuses. Taking bromelain along with standard treatments may enhance recovery from acute sinusitis, according to some research.
A study in children with acute sinusitis found combining bromelain with amoxicillin reduced symptoms faster compared to amoxicillin alone.
Applying bromelain directly to the skin seems to reduce inflammation and pain caused by burns. In one study, using bromelain on second- and third-degree burns for several weeks improved healing and decreased swelling and irritation.
Potential Side Effects and Precautions
Eating fresh pineapple is likely safe for most people looking to take advantage of its anti-inflammatory nutrients. However, there are some safety considerations with supplemental forms of concentrated bromelain:
- May increase risk of bleeding or bruising when taken before surgery due to anti-platelet effects.
- May enhance the absorption and effects of certain antibiotics, increasing the risk of side effects.
- May cause allergic reactions in some people, especially those allergic to pineapple, honeybee venom, olive tree pollen, or other members of the Bromeliaceae family of flowering plants.
Pregnant women should use caution with bromelain supplements and limit intake of supplemental vitamin A from sources like beta-carotene.
Bromelain may also interact with blood thinners, antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and medications that affect the immune system. If taking medications, consult your healthcare provider before using pineapple supplements.
Is Pineapple an Effective Anti-Inflammatory?
Research indicates components in pineapple like bromelain, vitamin C, and manganese possess anti-inflammatory properties. The enzyme bromelain is linked to reduced inflammation in several animal studies.
However, human research is limited and mostly focused on bromelain supplements, not eating the fruit itself. More studies are needed to understand how much fresh pineapple or juice you would need to consume to get substantive anti-inflammatory benefits.
Incorporating pineapple and other antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies as part of an overall healthy diet may promote lower inflammation. But using bromelain supplements without medical supervision is not recommended.
For people already on anti-inflammatory or blood-thinning medications, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider before adding pineapple to your diet or taking bromelain supplements.
The Bottom Line
Pineapple is a sweet, tropical fruit containing bromelain, vitamin C, manganese and other nutrients linked to anti-inflammatory properties. The research is strongest for the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain, which is found in both pineapple stems and fruit.
Most of the research is limited to animal and test tube studies. Human research is needed to confirm whether eating pineapple and its components can effectively prevent or treat inflammatory conditions.
When enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet, fresh pineapple and pineapple juice are likely safe and nutritious choices for fighting inflammation. But bromelain supplements should be used cautiously under medical supervision due to concerns with drug interactions and side effects.
For individuals already taking anti-inflammatory medications and those with bleeding disorders, it’s best to talk to your doctor before consuming large amounts of pineapple or taking bromelain supplements.