November is Osteoporosis Month here in Canada, which is why the California Prune Board has asked me to speak to some research suggesting that eating just one daily serving of about five California prunes (40g) helps slow bone loss (particularly in post-menopausal women).
For those that may not know, osteoporosis is a disease characterized by the deterioration of bone mass and bone tissue, leading to an increased risk of bone fractures.
According to Osteoporosis Canada, a fracture due to osteoporosis is more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.
Although it can affect anyone, women above the age of 65 are at the greatest risk.
It should be come as no surprise then, that a great deal of the research looking at prunes and bone health has looked specifically at this population (menopause accelerates bone loss, hence why females are at greater risk).
Before we get to that though, let’s take a quick look at what a serving of prunes (~5) offers you from a nutritional perspective:
3 grams of dietary fibre (in addition to the sugar alcohol sorbitol, which has a laxative/anti-constipation effect)
250+ mg of potassium and 5%+ daily Vitamin A (two nutrients most Canadians need more of)
More vitamin K than most other varieties of fruit (vitamin K plays an important role in bone health)
Like many other fruits, prunes also contain a wide array of antioxidant compounds which confer a variety of physiological benefits.
All for approximately 100 calories.
Prunes & Bone Health
A recent 2017 evidence review published in the Nutrients journal concluded the following based on a number of studies at both the cellular and population level:
Postmenopausal women may safely consume dried plums as part of their fruit intake recommendations given their potential to have protective effects on bone loss.
When I took a closer look at some of the studies cited within that review, including a randomized controlled trial from Osteoporosis International 2016, I found evidence to suggest that older postmenopausal women enjoyed protection against bone mineral density loss on both 50 and 100 gram daily servings of prunes, as compared to controls.
Theoretically, this benefit may be due to the ability of dried plums to inhibit bone resorption.
I believe it is reasonable to say then, that in this population, eating just one daily serving of five prunes (~50 grams) helps to slow bone loss.
Like many other chronic conditions, osteoporosis is complex and varied, and a nutrient-dense diet is one of the biggest steps anyone can take to reduce their risk.
If you don’t eat enough fruit, or you’ve never tried prunes, hopefully today’s article has given you a little nudge to give them a shot.
Just like other varieties of fruit, they are great in smoothies, salads, baked goods and many entrees.
Of course there’s also the added benefit of a growing body of evidence showing that a serving a day (50 grams or about five prunes~) helps slow bone loss in postmenopausal women.
Keep this in mind for the duration of Osteoporosis Month and beyond.
Until next time,
Andy De Santis RD MPH