Memory dysfunction is a common complaint following heart surgery and may be related to a diffuse ischemic state induced by microemboli dislodged during the procedure. Ischemia can induce damage by a number of mechanisms, including oxidative stress. Because pomegranates contain a variety of polyphenols with antioxidant and other potentially beneficial effects, we tested whether supplementation with a pomegranate extract before and after heart surgery could protect against postoperative cognitive dysfunction. Patients undergoing elective coronary artery bypass graft and/or valve surgery were given either 2 g of pomegranate extract (in 2 POMx pills) or placebo (pills containing no pomegranate ingredients) per day from one week before surgery to 6 weeks after surgery. The patients were also administered a battery of neuropsychological tests to assess memory function at 1 week before surgery (baseline), 2 weeks after surgery, and 6 weeks after surgery. The placebo group had significant deficits in postsurgery memory retention, and the pomegranate treatment not only protected against this effect, but also actually improved memory retention performance for up to 6 weeks after surgery as compared to presurgery baseline performance.