Conditions like osteoporosis affect an estimated 10 million adults over 50 years of age, with a much higher incidence rate in women than in men. Osteoporosis is especially common in women during the onset of and post-menopause, when a decline in estrogen levels and an uptick in inflammatory responses throughout the body can cause a loss of certain bone tissue and bone density. The result is an overall negative effect on bone health, growth, and formation.
Several treatment options exist for osteoporosis, including medications and dietary treatments (such as calcium-rich products). A team of researchers have recently found one particular food that could be added to existing dietary guidelines to help protect against the loss of bone tissue and help ensure strong bones. The dietary secret? Prunes. The researchers recently presented their study findings in a poster presentation at the North American Menopause Society Annual Meeting.
The “Prune Study,” a randomized controlled clinical trial, followed 235 menopausal women for about 12 months. During the 12 months study period, participants were assigned to eat no prunes on a given day (control group), five to six prunes a day, ten to 12 prunes a day, or five to 12 prunes a day. Researchers also measured volumetric bone mineral density, or overall bone density, and bone strength.
Overall, researchers noted that eating prunes on a regular basis improved overall volumetric bone mineral density, especially at crucial weight-bearing locations, such as the tibia. Study findings also revealed that in certain locations, bone density decreased for women who at no prunes compared to women who ate 10-12 prunes a day.
A prior study that was also presented at the North American Menopause Society Annual Meeting looked closely at the connection between inflammation and bone health in menopausal women. They found that higher inflammation was associated with worse bone health. The goal was to establish a baseline for the follow-up prune clinical trial. Participants in this study rolled into the Prune Study.
Researchers are currently preparing their results for publication in Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society.