Dried plums bear fruit yet again for bone health

For a few years now I have been reporting the studies from Dr. Arjmandi and colleagues suggesting that dried plums have a special bone building effect. And, with the results of a new study, Dr. Arjmandi says, “Over my career, I have tested numerous fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries, and raisins, and none of them come anywhere close to have the effect on bone density that dried plums, or prunes, have.”

In the latest work, Dr. Arjmandi and his research group published data from a year-long trial with 100 post-menopausal women comparing the effect of 100 grams of dried apple with 100 grams of dried plums (that’s 10-12 prunes, if you’re counting!). While both fruits had bone-protective effects, the plums had significantly more pronounced effects on bone density of the spine and forearm. And, as would be expected, the markers of bone breakdown decreased most significantly and consistently in the dried plum group.

And do we know anything new about why dried plums maintain and build bone? Well, it is probably at least partially due to the fact that dried plums are high in bone-building vitamins C and K, boron, potassium and potent antioxidant compounds.

This study also notes a new finding showing that prune consumption leads to a reduction in C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a marker of inflammation. Lower CRP is a good thing as this means there is less inflammation in the body as a whole. High C-reactive protein, on the other hand, is linked to a number of chronic diseases, including osteoporosis. In fact, a growing body of literature suggests osteoporosis involves an inflammatory response where the body is tearing down old tissue at a much higher rate than it is building new tissue. High antioxidant intake, including the powerful antioxidants from prunes, reduces inflammation.

For those considering adding prunes to their diet, the consumption of 10-12 prunes a day did not lead to any significant weight gain. Also, if you’re following an alkaline diet, you may wonder how prunes fit into the mix. It’s true, prunes are slightly acid-forming, but remember that an alkaline diet is about balancing acid-forming foods with alkaline-forming foods. It’s okay to eat some acid-forming foods as long as the majority of your diet is alkaline. And when the bone-building benefits of the food are as great as they are with prunes, it’s clearly worth the trade-off!

So, if you like prunes, work them into your healthy diet. Wonderful organic prunes are available from California. I like them soaked or stewed a bit, and for the sociability factor, it is always wise to spread them out over a day, taking a few each meal rather than eating them all at once.

Reference: Hooshmand, et al, “Comparative effects of dried plum and dried apples on bone in postmenopausal women”. British Jr. of Nutrition (2011) pages 1-8