Nutrition Advisor Mary Jo Feeney, MS, RD, FADA coordinates our Nutrition Research.
DISCOVERING THE WONDERS OF PRUNES THROUGH SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH
The California Prune Board continues to create a pipeline of nutrition research that expands on the health benefits of prunes. Guided by the strategic directives of the Board, our research opportunities are shepherded by the scientific expertise of the Nutrition Advisory Panel in concert with oversight from the Nutrition Research Subcommittee.
In 2018/19 we continued to focus on bone health while expanding our understanding of the axis between bone and intestinal health.
KEEPING PRUNE RESEARCH ON THE SCIENTIFIC RADAR
The research pipeline is always flowing. During 2018/19, preliminary results from previously funded projects were presented at a nutrition scientific meeting. Proposals were approved for studies on fracture healing, the effect on bone in women using oral contraceptive agents, and the effect on bone in postmenopausal women in South Korea, extending the pipeline through 2022. See chart below for a complete list of studies.
How Prunes Play A Role In Bone Health
A short-term (two-week) study [Hackman (UC Davis) published in Journal of Medicinal Foods (June 2019)] found that eating six prunes for two weeks resulted in a decrease in bone breakdown. This suggests that a reasonable intake of prunes might be beneficial for postmenopausal women.
Results from a study that looks at the effect of prunes on bone density, geometry and strength in postmenopausal women [M. De Souza (Penn State), C. Weaver (Purdue) and C. Rogers (Penn State)], anticipated in early 2021, would support benefits to bone health in postmenopausal women with low bone mass and represent an alternative, non-pharmaceutical strategy to combat bone loss in at-risk postmenopausal women.
Due to its prevalence worldwide, osteoporosis is considered a serious public health concern. It is estimated that over 200 million people worldwide suffer from this condition, according to the Interntational Osteoporosis Foundation.
As the first study funded by the Board to evaluate the bone protective properties of prunes in men, an interim report from June 2019 [S. Hooshmand and M. Kern, San Diego State University] states that daily consumption of prunes demonstrates modest bone protective effects with biomarkers for bone breakdown lower in men who ate prunes compared to the control group.
The Effect of Prunes on Bone Formation in Spinal Cord Injuries
A recently completed study on the positive effect of prunes on spinal cord injury-induced bone loss in mice shows much promise. The completed study [Halloran (UC San Francisco)] is under review for publication. Now, the animal study has prompted research on humans through a new pilot clinical trial on Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System patients with spinal cord injuries. The study results could provide much needed health benefits — and hope — for the 17,700 people who suffer a spinal cord injury every year, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center.
NUTRITION ADVISORY PANEL
The distinguished members of the Nutrition Advisory Panel remain a vital facet in how we maintain the scientific integrity of our studies, providing expertise and wisdom. In 2018/2019, we welcomed three new members to the Panel: Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., Research Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University; Gail Cresci, Ph.D., RD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine; and Connie Weaver Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Purdue University. You can learn more about the Nutrition Advisory Panel and our approach to research on the California Prune Board website.
WHAT OUR NEW MEMBERS HAD TO SAY…
“I feel it is critically important not only to promote more plant-based diets, but also to specifically characterize those attributes of each food which provide nutrient density and nutrient diversity that are associated with health promotion and disease prevention.” – Jeff Blumberg
“I admire the investment that the group gives to the research community including conferences as well as directly supporting their own research.” – Connie Weaver
“The nutritional profile of prunes is outstanding, and I am thrilled that the California Prune Board supports rigorous research into investigating the nutritional and health benefits of adding prunes into the diet.” – Gail Ceesci
COMMUNICATING THE NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF PRUNES
The California Prune Board’s nutrition research team makes research recommendations to the board and charts the course of our nutrition portfolio to ultimately support our ongoing marketing and communication efforts around the world, educating health care professionals and leveraging RD Ambassadors as key influencers to share the story of California Prunes. This fiscal year, California Prunes went on the road to engage nutrition professionals by participating in two state-level Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conferences – the first in Syracuse, NY and the second in Riverside, CA. As part of the conference activations, we compiled a Nutrition Handbook that encapsulates California Prune nutritionals, research, recipes and more. The Handbook continues to serve as a go-to resource for healthcare professionals.