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Several recent studies have confirmed what traditional oriental medicine has known for centuries - that dried plums have the capacity to prevent and even reverse bone loss that can occur in our later years
Florida State University researchers tested 236 women who were between one and ten years into menopause. The women were randomly divided into two groups. One group was given 100 grams of dried plums per day while the other group was given 100 grams of dried apples per day for a year. After doing bone scans at three months, six months and twelve months, the researchers found that the dried plum group showed significantly greater bone mineral density than those women consuming the dried apples over that same period.
Before the trial, every three months and after the twelve-month period, the women were tested for bone strength, physical activity, blood levels of bone density and bone turnover markers along with other signs of bone health.
Biomarkers such as alkaline phosphatase and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase-5b levels were significantly lower in the dried plum group, for example. These indicate a slower turnover of bone minerals and reduced bone loss.
The research was led by Dr. Bahram Arjmandi, Professor and Chair of Florida State's Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences Department. Dr. Arjmandi commented on the research:
"Dried plums are the most bone-friendly fruit that I have seen in decades. They are nature's solution to maintaining good bone health. 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 have."
Plums contain a variety of nutrients, including bone health-promoting vitamin K, potassium, copper and boron. According to Dr. Arjmandi, these work synergistically to prevent bone mineral loss, which can lead to osteoporosis.
Dr. Arjmandi has also found that California plums seem to provide some of the best nutrient levels:
"Incorporating California dried plums (prunes) into holiday recipes is a step in the right direction. After people start cooking with and snacking on them they love the taste. The good news is they are good for you."
California produces 99% of the dried plums consumed in the United States and 48% of the world's supply of dried plums.
What is the difference between dried plums and prunes? Only the name. In 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration accepted a new identity standard - changing prunes to dried plums - a more accurate description.
This finding is confirmed by one conducted by researchers at Oklahoma State University who studied post-menopausal mice. For eight weeks, the mice were given either a control diet or a diet that was supplemented with dried plum or other fruits.
In other words, those mice given dried fruit were given dried plum, dried mango, dried apple or dried grape for the eight-week period to determine whether dried fruit in general produced the effect or specifically the dried plums. Only the dried plum diet prevented bone loss among the mice.
The researchers also found that the dried plum diet also reversed bone loss among the aging female mice. The researchers found that dried plums':
"...ability to down-regulate osteoclast differentiation coincident with up-regulating osteoblast and glutathione (GPx) activity. These alterations in bone metabolism and antioxidant status compared to other dried fruits provide insight into dried plum's unique effects on bone."
Other clinical studies have confirmed these findings that dried plums prevent and even reverse bone loss among post-menopausal women, including research from the Medical College of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
Rendina E, Hembree KD, Davis MR, Marlow D, Clarke SL, Halloran BP, Lucas EA, Smith BJ. Dried Plum's Unique Capacity to Reverse Bone Loss and Alter Bone Metabolism in Postmenopausal Osteoporosis Model. PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e60569.
Hooshmand S, Chai SC, Saadat RL, Payton ME, Brummel-Smith K, Arjmandi BH. Comparative effects of dried plum and dried apple on bone in postmenopausal women. Br J Nutr. 2011 Sep;106(6):923-30.
Sacco SM, Horcajada MN, Offord E. Phytonutrients for bone health during ageing. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Mar;75(3):697-707.
Rendina E, Lim YF, Marlow D, Wang Y, Clarke SL, Kuvibidila S, Lucas EA, Smith BJ. Dietary supplementation with dried plum prevents ovariectomy-induced bone loss while modulating the immune response in C57BL/6J mice. J Nutr Biochem. 2012 Jan;23(1):60-8.
Halloran BP, Wronski TJ, VonHerzen DC, Chu V, Xia X, Pingel JE, Williams AA, Smith BJ. Dietary dried plum increases bone mass in adult and aged male mice. J Nutr. 2010 Oct;140(10):1781-7.
Arjmandi BH, Johnson CD, Campbell SC, Hooshmand S, Chai SC, Akhter MP. Combining fructooligosaccharide and dried plum has the greatest effect on restoring bone mineral density among select functional foods and bioactive compounds. J Med Food. 2010 Apr;13(2):312-9.
Hooshmand S, Arjmandi BH. Viewpoint: dried plum, an emerging functional food that may effectively improve bone health. Ageing Res Rev. 2009 Apr;8(2):122-7.
Johnson CD, Lucas EA, Hooshmand S, Campbell S, Akhter MP, Arjmandi BH. Addition of fructooligosaccharides and dried plum to soy-based diets reverses bone loss in the ovariectomized rat. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:836267.
Originally published: 2014-01-29
Article updated: 2019-08-15