Is it okay for POM Wonderful to say its pomegranate juice protects against heart disease and prostate cancer and remedies erectile dysfunction?

According to a recent legal judgement, no, it is not.

The Federal Trade Commission had asked a judge to rule on its claim that POM was misleading consumers with its health-benefit claims. On May 17, the judge ruled that POM lacked sufficient scientific support for many of the claims it makes in print ads and on its Web site and told the company to cease and desist.

But POM ran a huge ad in The New York Times Thursday casting its legal loss as a win and suggesting consumers judge POM’s health claims for themselves – while steering them, as food-politics expert Marion Nestle notes, toward information that can at best be called incomplete.

We’ve been down this road before: In February 2010 the FDA issued a long and detailed warning letter to POM, saying its therapeutic claims are the kind that can only be made by drugs that have undergone rigorous scientific scrutiny in the form of clinical trials.

I personally am no fan of POM or of misleading health-benefit claims. But there’s another, perhaps bigger issue afoot here. POM bases its health claims largely on the beverage’s high antioxidant content. As I have written before, though, antioxidants may sound great, but so far study after study has failed to show that they protect against cancer, heart disease or other health conditions.

It doesn’t matter to me if you choose to enjoy POM products. But don’t expect them to work wonders for your health.