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The Dried Fruit That Could Prevent and Reverse Bone Mass Loss

by Shubhra Krishan       Follow Shubhra at @eskrishan

Think prunes and the first word that pops into the mind is probably something along the lines of “digestion.” For centuries, grandmas have encouraged us to eat prunes for keeping things smooth and regular. Besides, this dried and wrinkled avatar of plums is quite delicious, too.

But their ability to strengthen bones should make you reach out for prunes more often.

A research study conducted at the Florida State University in Tallahassee studied the effect of eating prunes on postmenopausal women. It found that women who ate prunes every day for a year did not suffer loss of bone mass in the spine and forearm. The key ingredients that make prunes so effective in preserving bone health are phenolic and flavonoid compounds, both known to improve bone mass. Prunes are also a rich source of boron, potassium and Vitamin K, each of which is beneficial for bones.

prunes

Fifty-eight postmenopausal women not on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) were randomly assigned to consume either 100 g dried plums or 75 g dried apples daily for 3 months. Both dried fruit regimens provided similar amounts of calories, fat, carbohydrate, and fiber. Serum and urinary biochemical markers of bone status were assessed before and after treatment.

The result? Women who consumed dried plums significantly increased the bone mineral density of ulna and spine in comparison with dried apple.

The results of this study suggest that prunes could go beyond preventing bone loss–they could, in fact, reverse loss of bone mass as well. Arjmandi BH, who led the research, points out that “Loss of bone volume accompanied by loss of trabecular connectivity is generally believed to be an irreversible process, but our observations suggest that dried plum improves trabecular microstructure of tibia after losses have already occurred may exert positive effects on bone in postmenopausal women.”

Not looking to eat prunes every day? Other foods that are great for bone health include leafy greens, seeds, nuts and beans.

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The Low-Cost Superfood that Builds Strong Bones

Michelle Schoffro Cook    March 20, 2015

When we think of dried plums, or prunes as they are also known, we’re more likely to think of their bowel-regulating abilities than their capacity to build strong bones. But according to research published in the British Journal of Nutrition, we might want to give these sweet and tasty superfoods a second thought for bone health.

According to researchers at the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences, at Florida State University, dried plums are “the most effective fruit in both preventing and reversing bone loss.” The nutrition researchers recruited 236 women who had hit menopause one to ten years earlier, were not on hormone replacement therapy or taking any prescribed medications known to influence bone metabolism. The women were divided into two groups: those who ate 100 grams of dried plums or 100 grams of dried apples. Additionally, participants received 500 milligrams of calcium plus 400 IU of vitamin D daily.

The scientists assessed bone mineral density of the lumbar spine (low back), forearm, hip, and whole body prior to the study’s onset and at the end of the study using duel-energy X-ray absorptiometry as well as blood samples of bone health markers.

The scientists found that the women eating the dried plums on a daily basis had a significant increase in bone mineral density compared to the women eating the dried apples. Only the dried plums caused a significant decrease in bone markers linked to a breakdown of bone density.

Preventing bone breakdown tends to be easier than reversing bone loss so the study results are significant. Daily prune consumption showed the ability to both prevent and reverse bone loss.

prunes

Additional research in the British Journal of Nutrition had similar results. This time the researchers assessed 160 post-menopausal women with low bone mineral density, but not sufficiently low to be diagnosed as having osteoporosis. Again, they found that prune consumption could prevent and reverse bone loss by limiting the body’s production of compounds that initiate bone depletion.

In the latter study the women ate a normal diet with approximately 10 dried plums daily for a year (about 3.5 ounces).

Fresh plums and dried prunes are known to increase iron absorption in the body as well as boosting vitamin C levels. In addition to aiding bone health, fresh and dried plums have been found to normalize blood sugar levels, improve weight loss, and lower cholesterol levels.

Select soft, plump, shiny prunes that are free of any signs of mold. Avoid sulfured prunes. Store in a refrigerator to keep them fresh. You can find ones with or without pits, depending on your preference and plans for use. While they are delicious eaten on their own, they can be pureed and added to recipes in place of sweeteners to boost the fiber and nutritional content. They can also be stewed for a delicious breakfast or pancake or waffle topping.