Can Prunes Help Improve Bone Density?

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A 2022 Penn State University study suggests that prunes not only keep our plumbing operational but may also prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women.

By middle age, we all begin to lose more bone cells than we can easily replace, but women tend to struggle more than men with this process. When their estrogen levels dip after menopause, it triggers an inflammatory response that disrupts bone-cell restoration. That’s why women are more likely to develop osteoporosis.

Prunes could be a game-changer, notes study coauthor Mary Jane De Souza, PhD. “Fruits and vegetables that are rich in bioactive compounds such as phenolic acid, flavonoids, and carotenoids can potentially help protect against osteoporosis,” she explains.

De Souza’s team reviewed data from 28 preclinical and clinical trials and concluded that the minerals, vitamin K, phenolic compounds, and fiber in prunes help lower inflammation, ease oxidative stress, and reduce bone loss.

The mechanism by which this occurs remains a mystery, but researchers believe the fruit triggers changes in the gut microbiome that cool inflammation in the colon, thus suppressing levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which has the salutary effect of slowing oxidation throughout the body.

The study was partially funded by the California Prune Board, which may invite some skepticism. And then there’s the matter of just how much of the fruit we might need to consume each day to gain the desired bone-preserving effect.

Trial participants who ate 100 grams (about 10 prunes) every day for a year experienced improved bone mineral density in their lower spines and forearms as well as fewer signs of bone loss overall.

This article originally appeared as “In Praise of Prunes” in the November 2022 issue of Experience Life.

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