Prunes have a plum role in our health beyond keeping our bowels regular.
As we reported just before Christmas, prunes “can help control appetite and reduce overall caloric consumption, serving as a perfect snack to keep holiday cravings at bay”.
Being rich in Vitamin A, they also protect your eyes against macular degeneration.
They may help lower your blood sugar: They don’t have the candied quality of other dried fruit.
They are a good source of iron, which helps stop your hair falling out.
And they’re packed with more antioxidants than blueberries.
Oh, and like bananas, they’re a great source of potassium which helps maintain a steady heartbeat and lowers blood pressure.
They’re so underrated as a source of healthy nutrition, not to mention a little reviled (prunes = toilet), that Californian prune growers successfully lobbied the US Food and Drug Administration to change the name of prune to ‘dried plums’.
Apparently, the strategy is flush with success.
Preventing bone loss
What has interested researchers most about prunes is their protective quality against the loss of bone density, a condition called osteopenia.
If not treated, osteopenia will lead to osteoporosis, the loss of bone.
A study published in January found consuming 100 grams of dried plum daily (about seven prunes) for 12 months had bone-protective effects in men.
The study participants (all men aged over 50) who consumed prunes “showed significant decreases in biomarkers of bone breakdown, while no changes were observed in the control group”.
The study authors, from San Diego State University, also reported the men who ate prunes showed improvements in bone geometry indicating greater bone strength.
The lead investigator, Dr Shirin Hooshmand, is a consultant for growers’ group the Californian Prunes.
Study with post-menopausal women
Meanwhile, Penn State University published a study in January that found prunes can help prevent or delay bone loss in postmenopausal women, possibly due to their ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which contribute to bone loss.
“In postmenopausal women, lower levels of estrogen can trigger a rise of oxidative stress and inflammation, increasing the risk of weakening bones that may lead to fractures,” said Dr Connie Rogers, associate professor of nutritional sciences and physiology.
“Incorporating prunes into the diet may help protect bones by slowing or reversing this process.”
The research was paid for by the California Dried Plum Board.
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects more than 200 million women worldwide, causing almost nine million fractures each year.
It’s thought that prunes might work against bone loss because they contain high levels of vitamin K, which supports bone health.
Low intake of vitamin K can increase the risk of lower bone density and fracture.