Bone health is critical for the proper functioning of the body. If bones are weak, there is a high chance of fractures. As the human body ages, the chances of suffering from bone loss increase. However, there are some ways to tackle this. Researchers have found that eating prunes might help prevent bone loss. But to understand bone loss and how prunes can help improve bone health, it is important to understand a condition known as osteoporosis.
Millions around the world suffer from this condition. According to a 2017 research, the International Osteoporosis Foundation, based in Switzerland, estimates that one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 years will experience fractures related to osteoporosis during their lifetime. Over 200 million people are already suffering from osteoporosis.
What is osteoporosis?
When a body is affected by osteoporosis, bone mass and density start dwindling. In other words, the bones become weak. They become so fragile that they can break even at the slightest bump or a minor fall.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national public health agency of the United States, osteoporosis is the most common bone disease and is marked by the weakening of bone tissue, bone structure and strength.
It is possible that people with the condition may not even know of it until they develop a fracture. More so, people in the postmenopausal stage are more at risk of developing osteoporosis.
What is osteopenia?
It is also important to know about osteopenia, a condition where the bone density of a person is lower than it should be for their age. Although it usually occurs after age 50, it can happen sooner if bones were not strong enough in their youth.
Osteopenia can develop into osteoporosis over time. However, osteopenia may not lead to bone fracture in the same way as osteoporosis. In other words, osteopenia is the midpoint between healthy bones and reaching a stage where the bones are very weak.
Additionally, several studies have found that individuals going through menopause are also at risk of osteoporosis.
Menopause is the end of menstruation and usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. During this period, oestrogen, which is necessary for bone health, drops. Once this happens, the chance of developing primary osteoporosis in the postmenopausal stage increases, which means that bone health in postmenopausal women needs to be taken seriously.
Researchers note that a rise in average lifespan to around 70 years means that women will spend over a third of their lifetime beyond the menopausal transition.
Everything about prunes and how they help improve bone health
What are prunes?
Dried plums are called prunes. They come from a variety of European plum trees which are freestone. Fresh plums, on the other hand, are clingstone. A freestone is a variety in which the stone can be easily separated from the flesh of the fruit from the pit. In clingstone, the stone cannot be separated from the flesh easily.
Dried plums generally have a chewy texture and are deep red-brown. They have a savoury-sweet flavour.
Around 70 percent of the world’s prune production is done in California, US. The other major prune-growing countries are Argentina, Chile and France.
Prunes can be eaten in multiple ways. They can be added to sweet or savoury foods and can be consumed whole. They can also be mixed with nuts.
Prunes are rich in pectin, a soluble fibre which might help balance cholesterol levels. The sorbitol and phytonutrients content that prunes supply to the body helps support bowel function. Their antioxidant properties can also help lower blood pressure. When eaten whole, prunes can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes as well.
How many prunes can be consumed every day?
Most researches indicate that people should daily eat prunes up to 50 grams as part of their meals. This roughly translates to around five to six prunes daily.
Studies also indicate that 100 grams of dried plums can also be consumed daily for bone health, but it will have almost the same effect as half the quantity.
The intake can also be in the form of prune juice. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that 256 grams, or one cup, of prune juice contain 2.6 grams of dietary fibre, 31 milligrams of calcium, 64 milligrams of phosphorus, 8.7 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K, 207.97 grams of water and no cholesterol or trans fats.
How do prunes help prevent bone loss?
Studies have found that prunes and bone health are interconnected.
In 2017, research published by the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) revealed that dried plums, or prunes, do have the “ability to prevent the loss” of bone mineral density in older postmenopausal women.
The researchers noted that dried plum likely promotes bone health because it is rich in “nutrient bioactive compounds including dietary fibre, vitamin K, boron, copper, magnesium, manganese, among others, many of which are known to positively influence bone.”
Research led by Pennsylvania State University, whose findings were published by the NLM in October 2022, also drew a positive picture of the effect that prunes have on postmenopausal women. Following a randomised controlled trial on over 200 women, the researchers noted that prunes can prevent loss of total hip bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. They recommended a 50-gram dose of prunes daily as a “valuable nonpharmacologic treatment strategy.”
“This study is the largest randomized controlled trial conducted to date on the topic, so we were quite pleased to see this type of result among such a substantial sample size,” Mary Jane De Souza, the chief investigator of the study, told Healthline.
(Main and Featured images: Emőke Dénes/CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikimedia Commons)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Ideally, five to six prunes, weighing around 50 grams, can be consumed daily.
Answer: Research indicates that prunes help prevent bone loss and improve bone mineral density.
Answer: Yes, prune juice is almost as good as eating prunes for protection against osteoporosis.