A study in postmenopausal people suggests eating nutrient-rich prunes every day may be beneficial to bone health, reducing inflammatory factors that contribute to osteoporosis. Plums and prunes are impressively high in nutrients. They contain over 15 different vitamins and minerals, in addition to fiber and antioxidants.
An estimated 13.6 million people in the U.S. over the age of 50 will develop osteoporosis—a loss of bone strength caused by reduced mineral density of the bones—by the year 2030. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fracture, especially in older adults. People who experience menopause have lower levels of estrogen, which trigger an increase in inflammation in the body, which can also contribute to bone loss.
Previous research has shown that polyphenol extracts—plant compounds that act as antioxidants and reduce inflammation—in prunes promote lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in a type of bone cell called osteoclasts. In a new study, researchers from the Integrative and Biomedical Physiology Program and the Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Kinesiology at The Pennsylvania State University explored the effects of prunes on bone health after menopause.
Postmenopausal women with a bone mineral density score that was defined as low—a marker of osteoporosis—were divided into three groups:
- One group ate 50 grams (g) of prunes (about six prunes) daily for 12 months.
- A second group ate 100 g of prunes (about 12 prunes) daily for 12 months.
- A control group ate no prunes.
The research team looked at blood samples taken from all volunteers before and after the trial and found significant reductions in inflammatory markers in both of the prune-eating groups compared to the control group.
“Our findings suggest that consumption of six to 12 prunes per day may reduce pro-inflammatory mediators that may contribute to bone loss in postmenopausal women. Thus, prunes might be a promising nutritional intervention to prevent the rise in inflammatory mediators often observed as part of the aging process,” said Janhavi Damani, MS, first author of the study.
They can also help control your appetite and help you manage your weight. They do this by keeping you feeling full for longer. The reason for this is likely twofold. Prunes contain lots of fiber, which is slow to digest. Slower digestion means your appetite stays satisfied for longer. Second, they have a low glycemic index. This means they raise the glucose (sugar) levels in your blood slowly. This may in part be due to their high amounts of sorbitol, a sugar alcohol with a slow absorption rate. Avoiding spikes in your blood sugar levels, which can be caused by foods with a high glycemic index, can help keep your appetite at bay.
Adding prunes to your diet can be much easier — and more fun — than you’d think. For best results, make sure that you gradually increase your fiber intake and drink enough water.