Prunes and Bone Health
Bone and teeth enamel are the hardest substances in the body, so what is available to keep them healthy and strong? Many people look after their teeth by brushing daily, but what about our bones? When thinking about improving your bone health your first thought probably isn’t to reach for prunes. However research is suggesting that prunes could in fact be beneficial for bone health, due to the nutrients they provide.
As with most dried fruit, prunes do not contain significant amounts of calcium (43mg/100g), which is commonly and correctly associated with bone health. However, prunes do contain vitamin K and manganese that among other functions have direct benefits for bone health. Prunes are high in vitamin K, which supports the maintenance of normal bones and helps with normal blood clotting. Prunes are also a source of manganese, which supports the maintenance of normal bones, and the formation of normal connective tissues (a structural part of bones).
If that isn’t enough to get you reaching for the prunes, they contain further beneficial nutrients. Prunes are a source of vitamin B6, which helps make healthy blood cells in our bone marrow and maintain normal hormone levels including those involved in bone health. Additionally, prunes are high in potassium, which helps your muscles work normally, and without our muscles we would not be able to move our bones. Prunes are a source of copper, which helps support normal iron transport in the body, helps maintain normal connective tissues (a structural part of bones), and plays a role in protecting cells within the body from oxidative damage. The human body is very complex with cells working together and separately to perform all our vital body processes and help us go about our daily lives. Our contribution to this is consuming a balanced and varied diet with adequate amounts of all essential nutrients, necessary for optimal body functions.
Our bones provide strength, support and protection to our bodies and help us carry out everyday tasks. Bones are a living tissue, which is continually growing and changing. Bones, become most dense in our early twenties, from then on the density starts to reduce (IOF 2015) so it is important to look after our bone health throughout life; to help maximise the density in childhood and then minimise the loss in adulthood. Reduction in density and quality of bone in turn increases the risk of fractures.
"Around the world, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men are at risk of an osteoporotic fracture (IOF 2015)."
Often there are no signs or symptoms of osteoporosis until the first fracture which most commonly affects the hip, spine and wrist; and risk increases with age (IOF 2015). Fractures can affect quality of life, for example, following a hip fracture, only 40% of survivors return to their pre fracture walking ability (Sipila 2011). As walking is an important weight bearing exercise required for bone health, this may increase the risk of further fractures.
According to Hernlund (2013), 22 million women and 5.5 million men had low bone mineral density (BMD) or osteoporosis in the EU in 2010, with almost twice as many fractures occurring in women compared to men. Hormonal changes in postmenopausal women can increase bone loss and is a major health concern (Hooshmand 2014).
"The 2010 EU costs of osteoporosis, including 5% from pharmacological intervention, were estimated at €37 billion (IOF 2015)."
We know that following a bone friendly lifestyle can help maximise bone health- that means following a diet that is balanced and varied, alongside plenty of weight bearing activity such as walking, running, gardening, dancing and house work. Prunes can make a useful contribution to your diet, together with a variety of foods including sources of calcium such as milk and dairy products, and vitamin D, from oily fish (eg salmon and mackerel), eggs and sunlight*.
International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF)
Sunsweet are partnering with the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) as a Nutrition Sponsor to promote World Osteoporosis day. In collaboration with the IOF, we have prepared a number of PDF fact sheets which you can download from the bone health section of our website - For example our Love Your Bones brochure is filled with easy and practical bone friendly information; exercises, recipes and bone building tips for all the family.
There are now a number of studies that have investigated the role of prunes in bone health and further research is currently being carried out to explore the mechanisms.
Strong bones help protect against osteoporosis so is there a potential link with prune consumption? Metti (2015) studied older, osteopenic, postmenopausal women who consumed 50g (5-6 prunes) or 100g (10-12 prunes) daily for 6 months (in addition to daily calcium and vitamin D supplements). The results indicate that both doses (50g and 100g) may benefit bone health by helping to slow bone loss, so this suggests that prunes are playing a role, but more research is needed to identify how prunes have this effect.
The increasing weight of evidence suggests prunes could be an effective fruit to help maintain bone health. Choosing to consume Sunsweet Californian prunes as part of a varied and balanced, and a healthy and active lifestyle could see further benefits than you first thought.
*for more information on how to protect your skin and eyes in the sun, visit http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/skin/pages/sunsafe.aspx
Hernlund E, Svedbom A, Ivergard M, Compston J, Cooper C, Stenmark J, McClosky EV, Jonsson B, Kanis JA (2013) Osteoporosis in the European Union: medical management, epidemiology and economic burden. Arch Osteoporos. 8; 136.
Hooshmand S, Brisco JRY, Arjmandi BH (2014) The effect of dried plum on serum levels of receptor activator of NF-kB ligand, osteoprotegerin and sclerostin in osteopenic postmenopausal women: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 112; 55-60.
Hooshmand S, Metti D, Kern M, Arjmandi H (2015) Dose response of dried plum on bone density and bone turnover biomarkers in osteopenic postmenopausal women. Presented at the International Symposium on the Nutrition Aspects of Osteoporosis, June 17-20, Montreal, Canada.
International Osteoporosis Foundation (2015) http://www.iofbonehealth.org/
Metti D, Shamloufard P, Cravinho A, Cuenca PD, Kern M, Arjmandi B, Hooshmand S (2015) Effects of low dose dried plum (50 g) on bone mineral density and bone biomarkers in older postmenopausal women. FASEB. 29; 738.12.
Sipila S, Salpakoski A, Edgren J, Heinonen A, Kauppinen M, Arkela-Kautiainen M, Sihvonen S, Pesola M, RantanenT, Kallinen M (2011) Promoting mobility after hip fracture (ProMo): study protocol and selected baseline results of a year-long randomized controlled trial among community-dwelling older people. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 12: 277.