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Sep 12, 2011

Tone Your Bones with Dried Plums

Dried plums, also known as prunes, are not just good for getting your bowels moving when things are “stopped up.”  Incorporating this fruit into the diet can also apparently lower risk for osteoporosis and fractures in postmenopausal women, according to a new study in the British Journal of Nutrition.  

After comparing dried plums to many other fruits, including figs, strawberries, and dates, Professor Bahram H. Arjmandi of Florida State University found that dried plums have a particular affinity for improving bone health.  He and his colleagues from Oklahoma State University studied 2 groups of postmenopausal women over the period of 1 year.  The first group of 55 women ate 100 grams of dried plums (approximately 10) daily, while the second group of 35 consumed 500 grams of dried apples each day.  Women from both groups took supplemental calcium (500 mg) and vitamin D (400 IUs) daily.  After 1 year, the women in the dried plum group were found to have greater bone densities in both their ulnas and spines compared with the dried apple group.  They also had lowered serum values of compounds known to be involved in the breaking down of bone, including alkaline phosphatase and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase-5b.       

As people age, the process of bone breakdown tends to become faster relative to bone growth.  Women start losing bone at a significantly higher rate than before during their first several years after menopause, while men become more at risk for bone loss around age 65.  But proving to be quite the exceptional food, dried plums may actually suppress the breakdown of bone.  A study from 2010 published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that dried plums have “proanabolic factors” responsible for increasing bone volume and even restoring bone lost due to aging.  These fruits are also fairly dense in some of the nutrients known to be essential for healthy bones, including vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, and boron.  As a way to help preserve and improve bone health in both women and men, Professor Arjmandi’s advice is to include dried plums in one’s diet, starting with a few per day and working up to 6-10 per day.    

Now that there are studies revealing some of the amazing benefits of prunes, we can all give this fruit the respect it truly deserves.  No longer just famous for relieving a sluggish digestive tract, prunes can now also be known for keeping our bones toned!     

Dr. Shana McQueen