A few prunes a day may keep the doctor away. That is what the latest findings from Florida State University suggest when it comes to bone health and osteoporosis prevention. Researchers discovered that postmenopausal women who consumed dried plums daily, as compared to a control group who ate dried apples daily showed an increase in bone density after one year. These results may provide alternatives to drug therapy for the one in five American women over the age of fifty who are estimated to suffer from osteoporosis, which causes bone fractures.
Previous studies have shown that eating fruits and vegetables in general increases bone density, which naturally diminishes with age. These latest findings found that eating prunes, in particular, improved bone density among postmenopausal women by minimizing the rate of bone turnover. One hundred postmenopausal women were randomly assigned to consume either 100g of prunes (dried plums) or 75g of dried apple daily since both portions offer about the same amount of calories, fat and fiber. Both groups of women were also given 500mg of calcium and 400IU of vitamin D daily. The researchers then examined their diets, activity levels, height, weight, blood samples and bone mineral density (BMD) over a 12-month period. The BMD x-ray scan measured how much calcium and other types of minerals were present in their bones. The lower density of a bone indicates a greater risk of fractures.
Results from the study showed that while both dried fruits had a protective effect on bone density, the prunes proved slightly better at increasing bone density, particularly in regions of the spine and forearm. Researchers believe that the bone density increased among the prune-eaters because these women did not lose any bone mass as a result of re-absorption. Reasons for this result are still unclear but vitamin C, vitamin K, phytochemicals and antioxidants, all of which are found in prunes, may aid in restoring bone tissue and slowing bone re-absorption. Additionally, prunes contain high amounts of the mineral which has been showed to improve bone density by aiding in calcium absorption.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which the rate of bone re-absorption, or breakdown, is faster than the formation of new bone tissue. When we are young, the body uses calcium and phosphorous from our diet to form new bone. If these minerals are lacking in the diet the body may access the mineral reserves found in the bone to meet it’s needs. This causes the bones to become weak and porous which may result in bone fractures. The rate of bone re-absorption increases significantly over the age of 50 due to the decline in estrogen in women and testosterone in men.
If you are now sold on the idea of adding prunes to your diet, increasing your bone density should not be the only reason to get started. These dried fruits offer about 6 grams of fiber per serving, which helps to lower blood cholesterol, reduce the risk of diabetes and aid in weight loss. Prunes are also a good source of energy yet do not create a rapid rise in blood sugars like processed sugars do according to research by Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis et al. (2001). Prunes also contain large amounts of potassium and phenolic compounds, which may help prevent heart disease and cancer.
Larger studies are still needed to provide more information about how prunes offer such benefits to bone health and the researchers caution that the health benefits associated with prunes cannot be attributed to a single nutrient. Instead, whole fruits and vegetables, when consumed regularly offer nutrition benefits which can not be quantified. Therefore, increasing your consumption of fruits and vegetables in general may help in preventing osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Click here for further information on how to increase your consumption of foods, helpful in preventing osteoporosis.