- 10 million Americans age 50 and older have osteoporosis, but women are four times more likely to develop the condition.
- A new study shows that postmenopausal women who consume prunes have a lower risk of bone loss related to osteoporosis.
- Prunes contain many nutrients associated with bone health, but more research is needed to understand how prunes work to mitigate bone loss.
- Experts warn against relying on prune consumption as a treatment for osteoporosis.
However, two new studies from Penn State University found that eating prunes daily can help prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women.
The results of the two studies are based on data from the same 235 postmenopausal women who participated in a poster session at the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
The research was funded by the California Prune Board.
Bone loss is caused partly by age and partly by low estrogen levels, which contribute to increased inflammation that inhibits bone formation, according to the
The first of the two new studies looked at the relationship between cells called inflammatory mediators, which release substances that reduce inflammation, and different measures of bone health, including bone density and strength.
“Our findings show that inflammatory markers are negatively associated with bone health in postmenopausal women, suggesting that inflammation may be an important mediator of postmenopausal bone loss and a potential target for dietary therapies,” Connie RogersPh.D., MPH, professor and chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Georgia, said in a statement.
There was a control group that did not eat prunes, a group that ate 5 to 6 prunes a day, a group that ate 10 to 12 prunes a day, and a combined group – made up of women who ate either 5 to 6, or 10 to 12 prunes a day.
“Our latest research represents the largest trial, with a group of more than 200 postmenopausal women, to investigate the relationship between plums and proper bone health,” said the study’s lead author, Mary Jane D’SouzaPh.D., FACSM, told Healthline.
“Through previous, smaller studies, researchers have reported what is referred to as the positive ‘plum effect’, revealing that prunes play an important role in bone health,” de Sousa explained.
She explained that this larger randomized controlled trial (RCT) was conducted to validate and replicate results from previous smaller trials suggesting that prunes may be a “promising non-drug nutritional intervention” for bone preservation and maintaining bone density and strength.
De Souza’s findings also indicated that the pooled group of women experienced measurable bone benefits.
“While we were not necessarily surprised by the current findings, given previous studies that have also shown positive associations with bone health,” she said.
“This study is the largest randomized controlled trial conducted to date on this topic, so we were very pleased to see this kind of result among such a large sample size.”
De Sousa noted that prunes contain many vitamins and minerals important for bones, but said it was “not necessarily clear” what prunes had a positive effect on bone health.
“Plums are good for the bones,” said de Sousa. “We also know that prunes have anti-inflammatory effects, and we specifically studied this effect and will report on these findings shortly.”
“We are keen to continue this type of research related to bone health while expanding investigations into the effect of prunes on
Emily FavorRDN, a registered dietitian with Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in Queens, part of Northwell Health in New York, told Healthline that food can be an “important piece” for reversing disease in many chronic diseases, including:
“Medical nutritional therapy is used daily to help improve nutritional status in many of these preventable conditions,” Favor said.
“People with prediabetes or prediabetes are encouraged to limit added sugars and to incorporate more complex carbohydrates and fibers to reduce A1C. [blood sugar levels]. People diagnosed with heart disease are advised to monitor saturated fats and increase trans fats and fiber to lower cholesterol.”
Feivor echoed the study findings and said plums provide essential nutrients for maintaining bone health.
“In just four prunes, we receive 23% of the daily value of vitamin K, which makes proteins to help build our bones, as well as 6% of our daily value of potassium, which helps prevent calcium loss from our bones,” Favor said.
“Given that they contain such nutrients in these nutrients, it may be beneficial to consume them for those diagnosed with bone loss diseases.”
According to Feivor, a serving of prunes also provides both types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
“With each serving of prunes providing three grams, this helps in regulating cholesterol levels and moving food through the digestive system,” she said.
Feivor emphasized that besides being a great source of fiber, prunes contain no added sugar, are an excellent source of minerals, and “can be a healthy option in a balanced diet.”
However, Feivor cautioned that while “strong evidence” supports the benefits of eating prunes based on their nutritional composition, they do not recommend them as the only source of bone disease treatment.
New research has found that for postmenopausal women, including prunes in their daily diet can help prevent bone loss associated with osteoporosis.
Experts say that prunes contain many nutrients associated with bone health, but it is still unclear why the effect that researchers have noted.
They also say that it is not a good idea to rely solely on eating prunes as a cure for bone diseases.
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