Prunes are often thought of as a way to add fiber to your diet in an effort to become more regular. But new research shows another great benefit. Scientists at Penn State University found daily prune consumption can help prevent bone loss and preserve bone strength.
It is estimated about 10 million adults over the age of 50 in the U.S. suffer from some level of osteoporosis, a condition whereby bones become brittle and more susceptible to breaking. This is often the result of aging and it is four time more prevalent in women than men.
Researchers were looking for a way to help preserve bone density and experimented by adding prunes to the diets of study subjects because they contain high levels of bone-healthy vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, phosphorous, magnesium and potassium.
Penn State scientists evaluated the bone health of 235 postmenopausal women and published their findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They checked bone mineral density, bone geometry and estimated bone strength.
The group was divided into those who were assigned 50 grams or 100 grams of prunes per day for a year. Fifty grams is roughly five or six prunes.
While both groups saw a benefit, it was concluded five or six prunes per day was most beneficial because the people asked to eat 10-12 prunes were more likely to drop out of the study.
"Consuming five to six prunes a day for 12 months resulted in preservation of bone at the hip, a finding that was observable at six months and persisted through month 12," said lead author Mary Jane De Souza. "In another study, 3D imaging of bone provided additional information about the response of bone to consuming prunes daily, distinguished professor of kinesiology and physiology."
Benefits were seen in the preservation of bone mass density and strength at weight-bearing sites in the hip. Those who ate 5-6 prunes per day experienced no measurable loss of bone density, but those who did not eat prunes saw a 1.1 percent decrease in bone density over the year.
Similar results were observed in the tibia, a bone in the lower leg.
"We observed that the women who ate prunes for a year experienced some bone benefits," De Souza said. "In particular, estimated bone strength at the tibia was maintained in the pooled group and bone density was maintained in the five-to-six prunes-per-day and 10-to-12-prunes-per-day groups. As such, it appears that prunes may help prevent bone loss, especially at the hip and tibia."