Eating 5-6 prunes a day can prevent bone loss, osteoporosis

Eating 5-6 prunes a day can prevent bone loss, osteoporosis

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According to new research, incorporating prunes into your daily diet may help support bone health. Westend61/Getty Images
  • Osteoporosis, or loss of bone mass and density, affects many people, especially people over the age of 50, leading to an increased risk of fractures.
  • A new randomized controlled study reveals that eating 5-6 prunes a day can preserve bone mass and density, thereby halting the development of osteoporosis.
  • The same researchers, in a second study, found that a loss of bone health is associated with inflammatory processes in the body, and prunes are known to be anti-inflammatory.

Osteoporosis is a condition in which a person’s bones lose density and mass, making the bones more likely to break. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, some 10 million Americans suffer from this disease, and 44 million others lack bone density, putting them at risk for osteoporosis.

Half of women over 50 are at increased risk of breaking a bone, and one in four men. Loss of bone mass and density can occur at any age. However, osteoporosis is more common in older people.

Osteoporosis occurs most often in postmenopausal women. In 2017-2018, 19.6% of women over 50 have developed the disease – a higher percentage than the number of women who have heart attacks, strokes or develop breast cancer, combined.

The hip, spinal and wrist bones are the most common sites of bone fractures due to osteoporosis, although they can occur in any bone. For older people, hip fractures can be especially serious.

A new randomized controlled trial demonstrates that eating 5-6 prunes a day can halt the progression of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, compared to a control group that did not consume the fruit.

This is the second in a pair of studies conducted by researchers at Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania. The first, an unpublished observational study, investigated an association between inflammatory markers and loss of bone mineral density, or BMD.

Lead researcher Dr. Mary Jane Souza said Medical News Today:

“Our results indicate that higher levels of inflammatory markers were associated with decreased trabecular bone scores in the lumbar spine among study participants – essentially, the more inflammation, the worse the bone health.

“Inflammation could be an important mediator of postmenopausal bone loss and a potential target for nutritional therapies”, Dr. Souza noted.

The research, funded by the California Prune Board, was presented at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society in Atlanta, Georgia, in October 2022.

Dr. Souza explained that researchers have been studying the links between prunes and bone health for many years.

“Our latest research represents the largest trial, with a cohort of more than 200 postmenopausal women, to investigate the link between prunes and favorable bone health,” she said.

Dr Souza said DTM that with the current larger randomized trial, they wanted to build on existing research “to validate and replicate the results of earlier smaller trials that indicated that prunes could be a promising non-pharmacological nutritional intervention for preserving bone and maintain bone density and strength”.

“Our study is the first to reveal that consuming just 5-6 prunes a day prevented a loss of bone mineral density at the hip, the site of greatest concern for aging men and women, as hip fractures hip often result in hospitalization, decreased quality of life, and loss of independence.
— Dr. Mary Jane Souza

“Prune eaters were also protected against an increased risk of hip fracture compared to non-prune eaters, whose fracture risk worsened,” she added.

The researchers also found “a similar trend where bone strength is maintained at the tibia and volumetric cortical density is maintained, while the control group showed worsening of these parameters.”

The researchers divided the participants into three groups. One, the control group, did not eat prunes. Another group ate 5-6 prunes a day and another 10-12 prunes a day.

The benefit of prunes was most demonstrable at 5-6 per day, with no benefit for eating more.

“The main differences were that we had a much lower dropout rate in the 5-6 prunes per day group – 15% compared to a 41% dropout rate in the 10-12 prunes per day group,” said Dr. Souza.

“Furthermore, we saw that hip BMD was maintained in the 6 prunes/day group compared to the control group – a finding not observed in the 10-12 prunes/day group. This finding was observable in all six month and… persisted until the 12th month.
— Dr. Mary Jane Souza

“We also observed that the FRAX [Fracture Risk Assessment] the total hip score did not increase in the pooled female group [containing both the 5-6 prunes a day group and the 10–12 prunes a day group] compared to the control group,” Dr. Souza said. This suggests that eating more prunes did not improve bone health.

“While it’s not necessarily clear exactly what is in prunes that exerts this favorable effect on bone health, this whole fruit contains several vitamins and minerals important for bones, including boron, potassium, copper and vitamin K. Prunes also contain polyphenols – bioactive compounds that appear to play a role in bone formation,” Dr. Souza said.

She noted the anti-inflammatory effects of prunes, saying they “have specifically studied this effect and will report these results soon.”

“We look forward to continuing this type of research related to bone health, while expanding investigations into the influence of prunes on the gut-bone axis, and what research can reveal about this connection,” said she added.

Michelle Routhenstein, cardiology dietitian at, who was not involved in the study, suggested Medical News Today additional ways to maintain healthy bones:

“Other dietary strategies that can help fight bone loss and support bone strength include consuming adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K from food.”

“I would highly recommend getting calcium from foods like sardines, yogurt, and collard greens. Other foods high in vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium include edamame and leafy greens like Swiss chard and kale.
— Michelle Routhenstein

Routhenstein added that for those looking to use supplements to keep their bones healthy, she advised “to avoid high dose calcium supplements above 500mg due to their ability to cause calcification in the arteries. “.

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