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Reverse Osteoporosis with Prunes
A TBYIL guest article by L. J. Foster, MD
(The Best Years in Life) Prunes build bone. Excuse me, dried plums build bone. Whatever the preferred moniker, research by Dr. Bahram Arjmandi from Florida State University shows that eating only 10 of these bite-sized sweets per day actually reverses osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.
In a clinical study of 58 women, eating 100 grams of dried plums per day improved bone formation markers after only three months, compared to a control group served 75g of dried apples. This supported previous animal models showing increased bone density and improved bone structure on a microscopic level. In another study, benefits were seen in male rats with low testosterone levels, suggesting men with osteoporosis could benefit from a few daily dried plums as well.
This information is especially timely, considering recent reports of increased risk of fracture for patients on long-term bisphosphonate treatment. Bone is a living tissue, constantly remodeling itself. Osteoclasts reabsorb bone, helping shape its normal trabecular structure. On the other hand, osteoblasts make new bone. Normally, these processes are balanced, maintaining healthy, strong bones. When osteoclasts get the upper hand, more destruction of old bone than construction of new occurs. This leads to weak osteopenic bone, or even fragile oseoporotic bone.
Most pharmaceuticals act by inhibiting osteoclasts, which leaves bone harder, but more brittle because of their change in structure. Architecture is just as important to the strength of bones as buildings: microscopically the intricate archways apparent in bone are just as beautiful as those in ancient Rome. Furthermore, slowing down osteoclasts can only retard bony reabsorption.
Prunes work by stimulating osteoblasts, enabling them to promote new bone formation and actually reverse osteoporosis. Researchers postulate this may be related to their boron content. Also found in nuts and other dried fruits, boron helps regulate both mineral metabolism and hormone levels. By reducing loss of calcium and magnesium in the urine, more of these essential minerals are available for building bone. Additionally, boron upregulates estrogen, which in turn increases calcium absorption. Finally, boron helps convert vitamin D to an active state needed for the osteoblasts to utilize the calcium in laying bricks of new bone.
Dried plums benefit the body in other ways, too. The anti-inflammatory effect of the polyphenols in prunes inhibit osteoclasts, and also yields benefits for heart health and cholesterol balance. The insoluble fiber found in dried plums helps maintain a healthy colon.
Few risks are involved in consuming prunes, although the effect of raising levels of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) may not be beneficial in those with cancer. IGF-I encourages tissue growth, which is good for weak bone, but undesired for tumors. This is debated, however, as some authors believe their anti-inflammatory properties help prevent cancer.
Famous for their laxative effect, most of the study participants nevertheless denied problems with eating ten dried plums throughout the day. Some people may wish to begin with three and increase to the full 100g/day. Because of their low glycemic index of 29, diabetics tolerate prunes well. Dried plums can be eaten plain, with yogurt, oatmeal, couscous, salads, risotto, meats, or even on pizzas.