What the Research Tells Us
While calcium and vitamin D supplementation is recommended for favorable effects on bone, the nutrients in prunes (dried plums) that are associated with bone health – potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, boron and bioactive compounds (polyphenol antioxidants) – have sparked research. Prunes’ effect on bone has been investigated in cell and animal studies and clinical trials with postmenopausal women at two dose levels. Studies also have investigated the possible mechanism(s) and components in prunes related to bone health benefits. Some of the findings include:
▪ Postmenopausal women who consumed 5-6 prunes (about 50 g) for 6 months or 10-12 (about 100 g) for 1 year had improved bone biomarkers and protection against the decline in bone mineral density (BMD) in several sites measured.1
▪ A small follow-up study discovered that women in the one-year clinical trial retained BMD in the spine and long arm to a greater extent than those in the other intervention group.2 The authors note, however, that other lifestyle factors may need to be considered.
▪ Prunes prevented bone loss in animal models of female and male hormone deficiency and aging, and have been shown to restore bone in animals once it has been lost.3
The ability of prunes to both prevent bone loss and restore bone may be related to its nutrient profile including the polyphenol content acting as antioxidant and/or anti-inflammatory agent(s) that help slow or prevent bone breakdown. Prebiotic fibers have also been linked to improving absorption of minerals such as calcium. Additional information can be found here.
Stay Tuned – More Research to Come
Recognizing the importance of ongoing research, the CDPB has funded a one-year randomized control trial comparing the effects of 50 and 100 g of prunes to a control group on bone density, geometry and estimated bone strength in postmenopausal women. Drs. Mary Jane De Souza, Pennsylvania State University, and Connie Weaver, Purdue University are co-principal investigators.
▪ It’s been a busy spring for prunes in the news. Press releases were distributed nationally to support emerging research on the positive health benefits of prunes. Scientific Reports published new research that suggests prunes may help prevent bone loss in those exposed to radiation, such as astronauts in space! More details from Food Dive.
▪ Prunes appeared at the Nutrition & Health Conference where internationally recognized researchers, medical doctors, clinicians, educators, and chefs gathered around healthy living. CDPB educated attendees on the latest research findings, and they were pleasantly surprised by the culinary versatility of prunes.
▪ Leading registered dieticians and researchers joined us for two educational events in Chicago. Key spokespersons for CDPB presented in-depth research findings and culinary demonstrations over mouthwatering meals featuring prunes!
• Working on enhancing culinary awareness, California Prune Board China/Hong Kong worked closely with leading culinary institute, Beijing Jingsong Vocational School, to educate future chefs on culinary applications of California prunes. One hundred student pastry chefs gathered as guest Chef Jinxing Bai taught ways to incorporate prunes within the foodservice space. Following the demonstration, students tested their ability to incorporate prunes into coursework over the span of two weeks.
• Leading journalists from lifestyle and food specialties gathered in Beijing for a tasting event. Zhikun Chen, Deputy Secretary General of Capital Healthcare and Nutrition Cuisine Society, shared the nutritional benefits of California prunes, and Executive Chef of Westin Beijing conducted a live cooking demonstration and developed a menu featuring prunes throughout the meal – from appetizers to main courses to desserts.
• At a trade gathering in Shanghai, importers, distributers, retailers and ecommerce specialists learned about the nutritional benefits of California prunes and the latest market trends, and enjoyed a dinner featuring California prunes.
• Prunes danced across Korean screens throughout the beginning of 2016. Many TV programs aired stories about prunes’ health benefits, including bone health and cholesterol effects, when consumed regularly. A health program on a popular cable station, MBN, recommended prunes after discussing a study of suppressed effects on ovariectomy-induced hypercholesterolemia in rats.4
• TV coverage continued as another station touted prunes as one of three foods that aide in postmenopausal bone health, along with seaweed and flaxseed. The program stated that regularly consuming these three common superfoods may be effective in reducing bone loss and lowering cholesterol levels. Prunes were also featured on a quiz about bone-strengthening foods, which aired on SBS, a public television station, where prunes were labeled as a food for healthy bones.
Right Bite Recipe
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 1/2 minutes
Chill time: 1 hour
Makes: 64 pieces
2 cups crispy rice cereal
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup California prune bits
1 cup mini dark chocolate chips
1 cup almond butter
2/3 cup honey
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated orange peel
1. Coat ice cube trays or baking sheet with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Combine cereal, oats, almonds, prune bits, chocolate chips in a large bowl. Mix well.
3. In a microwave-safe bowl, stir together almond butter, honey, cinnamon and orange peel. Microwave on HIGH for 90 seconds or until bubbling. Stir well and add to dry ingredients, mixing until well-blended.
4. Shape into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet or shape for ice trays. Chill for at least one hour, then store in the refrigerator or freezer to keep firm.
Yield: 64 bites
Total Fat: 4.2 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 11 grams
Sugar: 6.6 grams
Dietary fiber: 1.4 grams
Protein: 1.6 grams
Sodium: 8 mg
1 Hooshmand et al. Osteoporosis International Feb. 2016 and Br J Nutr. 2011 106(6): p. 923-30), Hooshmand et al. Br J Nutr Sep 2011
2 Arjmandi BH et al April 2016 The FASEB Journal vol. 30 no. 1 Supplement lb268
3 References 9-12 in Smith BJ et al Calcif Tissue Int. 2014; 94: 442–453. Halloran B et al. J. Nutr. 140: 1781–1787, 2010