For decades researchers have pointed to the mineral calcium as the key nutritional ingredient for building up bones, along with vitamin D.
And while those nutrients are important, they’ve overlooked a fruit that contains natural bone-building compounds that help the body keep up its bone strength as we get older, a time when many folks face the fallout of a weakening skeleton.
Here’s the story…
Right now Americans have a widespread, worrying bone problem.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, more than half of Americans over the age of 50 are either living with moderately weakened bones or have already developed osteoporosis. An osteoporosis diagnosis means the bones are so porous they’re in danger of fracturing from a fall, jostle or even a tiny sneeze.
The latest research shows that one way to help remedy weak bones is by eating prunes, which are sometimes referred to as dried plums.
Increase Bone Density Naturally
Studies show that prunes contain natural compounds called phenolics which can increase your body’s bone mineral density (BMD) by influencing the signals sent out by the body’s cells.
These signals are constantly playing a role in adjusting how the bones in the body are remodeled – a process that breaks down old bone tissue and replaces it with new bone cells. During remodeling, cells called osteoclasts pull apart sections of the bones while other cells called osteoblasts build new ones. It’s a little like having one road crew tear up old, wornout sections of highway while another is busy putting down parts of a brand new road.
During these functions, the cells communicate with each other. But if the signals get crossed – which can be more likely as we age – the osteoclasts may be too effective in eliminating bone cells while the osteoblasts fall behind in their reconstruction job.
The result? Weaker bones.
According to researchers at George Mason University in Virginia, the phenolics in prunes help maintain cell signalling that keeps the osteoblasts and osteoclasts on track to maintain better bone mineral density.1
For instance, research at Florida State University (in conjunction with other institutions) found that postmenopausal women who ate five to six prunes daily had better bones at the end of six months than women of the same age who didn’t eat prunes.2
Now, that’s a lot of prunes! However, if you’re faced with osteoporosis, it’s much easier to eat a handful of prunes everyday than to suffer a debilitating fracture that might not heal.
Prunes are so effective at improving bones, even astronauts may soon find themselves snacking on them as their rocket ships hurdle through space.
Laboratory tests involving NASA show that prune powder helps to fight off the bone-thinning effects of weightlessness. As the researchers concluded, prunes “could be an effective countermeasure against the skeletal deficits observed in astronauts during spaceflight.”3
Some additional research suggests that prunes may be the “missing link” for those who take nutritional supplements but aren’t seeing the needed increase in bone density.
Prunes Strengthen Results of Vitamin D, Calcium
Consider the experience of a 55-year old woman who took part in a year-long bone health study that involved taking calcium and vitamin D supplements.
As reported by a Penn State clinician, during her 12 months of taking calcium and vitamin D her bone mineral density still declined. However, when the official study ended, she kept taking the vitamin D and calcium supplements but added prunes. And that’s when her bone mineral density finally started increasing!4
Best of all, prunes have a wealth of other health benefits. In addition to all of the science that suggests prunes can help relieve constipation and promote healthy digestion and elimination, there are new studies pointing to the cardiovascular benefits of this little fruit.
Help For the Heart
When researchers at San Diego State University examined the heart health benefits of prunes in 48 postmenopausal women, they found that adding prunes to meals (again about five or six a day) improved a variety of biomarkers in the blood that indicated risk for heart disease had dropped.
Specifically, the six-month study demonstrated that prune consumption reduced levels of interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha – inflammatory proteins released by white blood cells that can increase your chances of heart problems.5
So, if you’re interested in improving your heart and bone health, as well as your digestion and elimination, a few prunes every day may prove to be just what the doctor ordered. I’d choose them first over medication, every time.