They may be known for helping you over an embarrassing episode of constipation but prunes have another very useful effect.
Scientists have found that post-menopausal women can protect themselves against osteoporosis and bone fractures by simply eating around 10 of them a day.
Florida State and Oklahoma State academics proved that dried plums are far better than figs, dates, dried strawberries, dried apples, and raisins for improving bone density.
It appears they suppress the breakdown of bones, which tends to speed as people age.
And as post-menopausal women are most prone to osteoporosis they are encouraging people to eat more of the divisive dried fruit.
‘Over my career, I have tested numerous fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, and none of them come anywhere close to having the effect on bone density that dried plums, or prunes, have,’ said Bahram H. Arjmandi, Florida State professor and chairman of the U.S. Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences.
‘All fruits and vegetables have a positive effect on nutrition, but in terms of bone health, this particular food is exceptional.’
Arjmandi and a group of researchers tested two groups of post-menopausal women.
Over a year, the first group, consisting of 55 women, was instructed to consume 100 grams of dried plums – about 10 prunes – per day.
While the second – a comparative control group of 45 women – was told to consume 100 grams of dried apples.
All of the study’s participants also received daily doses of calcium and vitamin D.
The group that consumed dried plums had significantly higher bone mineral density in the ulna, one of two long bones in the forearm, and the spine, in comparison with the group that ate dried apples.
The group’s research, has been published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
In the United States about 8 million women have osteoporosis because of the sudden cessation of ovarian hormone production at the onset of menopause. About 2 million men also have osteoporosis.
‘In the first five to seven post-menopausal years, women are at risk of losing bone at a rate of three to five percent per year,’ Mr Arjmandi said.
‘However, osteoporosis is not exclusive to women and, indeed, around the age of 65, men start losing bone with the same rapidity as women.’
Arjmandi encourages people who are interested in maintaining or improving their bone health to take note of the extraordinarily positive effect that dried plums have on bone density.
‘Don’t wait until you get a fracture or you are diagnosed with osteoporosis and have to have prescribed medicine,’ he said.
‘Do something meaningful and practical beforehand. People could start eating two to three dried plums per day and increase gradually to perhaps six to 10 per day. Prunes can be eaten in all forms and can be included in a variety of recipes.’