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Prunes can delay bone loss in postmenopausal women

Prunes can delay bone loss in postmenopausal women

Pennsylvania State University researchers say including prunes in the diet may help protect bones by slowing or reversing the rise of oxidative stress and inflammation
Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K

Prunes (dried plums) can help prevent or delay bone loss or osteoporosis among postmenopausal women, according to a study by Pennsylvania State University. The fruit also helps in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, considered to be the main reasons behind bone loss, the researchers say.

Osteoporosis is a condition where human bones become weak and brittle. It is most common in women over the age of 50. Over 200 million of women worldwide suffer from osteoporosis. It is said to be the cause behind nine million factures every year.
According to Connie J Rogers, associate professor of nutritional sciences and physiology, Pennsylvania State University, postmenopausal women have lower levels of estrogen, which can trigger a rise of oxidative stress and inflammation. “Incorporating prunes into the diet may help protect bones by slowing or reversing this process,” Rogers was quoted as saying in the February 2022 study.

Oxidative stress is caused due an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in the body. (Oxygen-containing molecules that have uneven numbers of electrons are known are free radicals.)

The researchers from Pennsylvania State University said that along with existing medications there was a growing interest in ways to treat osteoporosis with nutrition.
The study quoted Mary Jane De Souza, professor of kinesiology and physiology at the university, as saying that fruits and vegetables rich in bioactive compounds — such as phenolic acid, flavonoids, and carotenoids — could potentially help protect against osteoporosis.

Doctors who Happiest Health spoke to in India talked of the need for conducting a similar study in the country.

Talking about the benefits of eating prunes, Dr Chethana D, consultant, rheumatology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru, said, “It contains over 15 different vitamins and minerals, in addition to fibre and antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of several chronic diseases. Prunes have high Vitamin K, which plays an important role in bone health. Dietary supplementation with prunes may help prevent loss of bone density. Therefore, eating prunes can lower a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis.”

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Sai Krishna B Naidu said the American study could be true, but more evidence was required to support the conclusion that prunes reduce the risk of osteoporosis. “We ourselves have to conduct similar research on prunes and their benefits before relying on any western study,” said Dr Naidu, senior consultant, joint replacement and sports injuries, Altius Hospital, Bengaluru.

Dr Chethana said high vitamin content in prunes can help improve calcium balance in the body. Apart from prunes, dairy products, lean protein, eggs, and other fruits and vegetables (such as spinach, mustard, figs, broccoli, oranges, and mushrooms) provide the body with nutrients to keep bones healthy and strong.

Penn State researchers said bone health is maintained by new cells that are built while old ones are removed. Around the age of 40 there is a breakdown of old cells which outpaces the formation of new ones. This is caused by inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. That is when radicals and antioxidants are unbalanced in the body.
Molecules that can neutralize free radicals by giving out electrons are called antioxidants. They help in protecting cells against free radicals.

After analyzing various data and conducting trials, the researchers found evidence that eating prunes may help to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, promoting bone health. Prunes have many nutritional benefits such as minerals, vitamin K, phenolic compounds and dietary fiber that may help counter some of these effects.

The clinical trials found that eating 100gm of prunes (about 10 prunes) each day for a year improved the mineral density of bones in the forearms and lower spine. It also decreased the signs of bone turnover (the process of breakdown and assimilation of old bone followed by the replacement by the new bone with little change).

Eating 50-100gm prunes for a day for six months prevented total loss of bone mineral density, the study found.

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