Reverse Osteoporosis with 10 Prunes a Day!
I’m always excited when research supports the simple, the safe and the natural treatment option. Thus is the case for the magnificent… prune. Prunes are one of those time proven remedies passed down from generation to generation.
I remember my Grandmother eating prunes for their reliable effect on constipation. Prunes may not top the list of the latest trendy supplement money can buy, and they may not be glamorous, but prunes have long been considered a highly prized functional food for their health benefits. Prunes contain carbohydrates, small amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals and they are a rich source of fiber and polyphenols commonly known as bioflavonoids. The simple prune has demonstrated benefit with cancer, diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, atherosclerosis, age related cognitive decline, jaundice, liver inflammation, fever, menstrual disorders, miscarriage, asthma and of course digestive disorders including constipation. Another benefit of prunes that continues to build evidence is for osteoporosis.
Clinical human trials are confirming the strong performance of prunes in reversing osteoporosis in animal studies. The exact mechanism of action is still not clear but it has been noted that prunes are a rich source of selenium and boron, both necessary in bone metabolism and mineralization. The polyphenols in prunes are known to down regulate inflammatory and catabolic biochemical pathways (breakdown) resulting in less bone loss and more synthesis. Many other fruits contain similar polyphenols but prunes have proven to be the most effective fruit for preventing and reversing bone loss.
A recent study by Dr. Bahram Arjmandi of Florida State University was published in the Journal of Medicinal Plants May 2011. This study of 160 postmenopausal osteopenic (decreased bone density) women, “not on hormone replacement therapy or any other prescribed medication known to influence bone metabolism”, demonstrated the ability of prunes to not only prevent bone lose but to actually reverse bone loss and increase bone density with administration of just 100 grams of prunes per day (roughly 10 prunes). Given the significant potential for side effects from current standard of care prescriptive medications, this study calls to question the necessity of those drugs. It also infers that consumption of prunes before the onset of bone loss may be preventative of osteoporosis.
The mechanism behind prunes effects on bone density may not be fully elucidated, but from a Naturopathic perspective it is clear. Prunes provide fiber which enhance the bowels ability to eliminate toxins and byproducts of metabolism. Fiber provides food for beneficial gut bacteria which in turn provide cells of the colon with short chain fatty acids as a breakdown product of the fiber they digest. Short chain fatty acids are a food to colon cells and help them to function more optimally. The types of bacteria fed by the fiber from prunes are capable of modulating the immune system to a less reactive and less inflammatory response. Inflammation has been linked to increased bone degeneration.
The improvements in bowel function also lead to greater absorption of food which is especially important when it comes to bone supporting nutrients like Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, selenium, boron and of course bone building polyphenols. From an ND’s perspective these mechanisms of prune action on bone density are obvious. This theory is further supported by the fact another study published in April 2010 by Dr. Arjmandi in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that a combination of a type of fiber called fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and dried plum provided added benefit in restoring bone density in rats. The combination of FOS and plum was more effective than plum combined with additional polyphenols.
It’s amazing how much research it takes to pull the nectar of knowledge out of a deliciously simple prune and discover the potent benefits within. Thanks to Dr. Arjmandi and his team at FSU for bringing food back to the table as medicine. It is time we moved away from the notion that medicine must be equated to a pill. I sure hope the price of prunes doesn’t go up because of this…