By Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD, Nutrition Advisor, Research and Communications, California Prune Board

Prunes Protect Men’s Bones!

While osteopenia and osteoporosis are more prevalent in aging women, men are certainly not exempt from these bone loss diseases. In fact, an estimated two million men in the United States are battling osteoporosis and over 16 million have low bone mass (Wright et al. 2014). Despite these numbers, bone health in men is often overlooked.

A decade’s worth of scientific research indicates that daily prune consumption favorably affects bone health in postmenopausal women (Hooshmand et al., 2011, 2014, 2016; Strock et al., 2021). Now, a new study out of San Diego State University is the first of its kind to test the impact of daily prune consumption on men’s bones (Hooshmand, et al. 2021). The study, entitled Effects of 12 months consumption of 100 g dried plum (prunes) on bone biomarkers, density, and strength in men was published online in the Journal of Medicinal Food this past October.

In this randomized-controlled clinical trial, 66 healthy men aged 50-79 years old were assigned to either the treatment group – consuming 100 grams of prunes (about 10-12 prunes) every day – or to the control group, which did not consume any prunes, for a duration of twelve months. Both groups were provided daily calcium and vitamin D supplements. After one year, prune consumers showed significant decreases in biomarkers of bone breakdown, while no changes were observed in the control group. The authors also reported that the men who ate prunes showed improvements in bone geometry – an indicator of greater bone strength.

“We’ve already seen significant evidence that prunes have a positive effect on bone health in women, so it’s particularly exciting to find that prunes can also play a beneficial role in men’s bone health. We look forward to continuing to study the “prune effect” on bone and other health outcomes in men,” said lead researcher Professor Shirin Hooshmand, Ph.D., RD, School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University.

Furthermore, compared to the control group, the men who ate prunes had higher intakes of fiber and potassium, which are two nutrients of concern per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They also had greater intakes of vitamin A and the essential bone nutrient, vitamin K. The totality of the results provides even more reason to incorporate prunes into one’s daily diet and underlines why this convenient snack deserves some attention.

There are endless ways prunes can be enjoyed. Since prunes travel well, they make a great addition to a golf bag, gym bag, or glove compartment. Prunes won’t freeze so take them with you on the slopes or on your next camping trip. They are delicious right out of the bag, but this versatile fruit also pairs well with both savory and sweet dishes. Impress your sweetheart and use prunes in baking to cut down on fat and added sugars. Bonus! Prunes bring out the flavor of cocoa in treats such as brownies and chocolate cake. Add them to a grazing board or snack on them when you’re sipping a cold beer or snacking on dark chocolate. If you’re feeling adventurous, prunes add depth of flavor and texture to savory recipes like turkey tacos, chicken curry, and lentil chili. The list goes on! For more ideas and culinary inspiration, visit CaliforniaPrunes.org/recipes/.


REFERENCES

Wright NC, Looker AC, Saag KG, Curtis JR, Delzell ES, Randall S, Dawson-Hughes B, 2014. The recent prevalence of osteoporosis and low bone mass in the United States based on bone mineral density at the femoral neck or lumbar spine. J Bone Miner Res. 29(11):2520-2526.

Hooshmand S, Chai SC, et al., 2011. Comparative effects of dried plum and dried apple on bone in postmenopausal women. Br J Nutr. 106(6):923–930.

Hooshmand S, Brisco, JR, Arjmandi, BH, 2014. The effect of dried plum on serum levels of receptor activator of NF-kappaB ligand, osteoprotegerin and sclerostin in osteopenic postmenopausal women: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 112(1):55–60.

Hooshmand S, Kern M, et al., 2016. The effect of two doses of dried plum on bone density and bone biomarkers in osteopenic postmenopausal women: a randomized, controlled trial. Osteoporos Int. 27(7):2271–2279.

Strock N, Koltun K, Weaver C, De Souza MJ, 2021. Dried plum consumption improves bone mineral density in osteopenic postmenopausal woman: A case report. Bone Report. 24(11):1161-1168.

Hooshmand S, Kern M, et al., 2021. Effect of 12 months consumption of 100 g dried plum (prunes) on bone biomarkers, density, and strength in men. J  Med Food. Oct. 29 published online. http://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2021.0080.