Food,  Health,  Science

Bone loss? Osteoporosis? Don’t forget your prunes

By Roberta Attanasio

I like a good prune. I mean, when it’s soft and sweaty like a candy bar on a hot day. When it’s a sinister Disney-villain shade of brownish purple, and it tastes of nothing but honey and caramel, what’s not to like?”

Prunes are dried plums, rich in phenolic compounds. Carried from China along the Silk Road thousands of years ago, plum trees flourished all over the Mediterranean basin under the aegis of the Greeks and Romans. The fruits were dried in the sun or in bakers’ ovens, depending on the region, transforming them into prunes. Because of their high nutritional values and long shelf life, prunes provided sustenance during times of poor harvests or for long sea or land journeys. Nowadays, they’re used in many different recipes, and are also eaten as snacks, often mixed with nuts.

Most of America’s prunes are made from the La Petite d’Agen, a French plum variety brought to California from France in 1856. Tejal Rao tells us: “In most parts of the world, including the small town east of Paris where I lived as a kid, prunes were never a punch line. Good prunes were considered a serious craft, a worthy, occasional expense, a perfectly conventional thing to love. They’d be simmered with game, whipped into a boozy mousse or slipped into baggies to eat as a snack. They’d disintegrate into a lamb tagine, or be sliced almost all the way open and filled with cold foie-gras terrine on New Year’s Eve. But my favorite way to have prunes was in a tart full of frangipane, the sweet, buttery almond cream that goes very nearly chewy when it cools.”

There is even more to like about prunes—a recent scientific review shows that prunes can help prevent or delay bone loss in postmenopausal women. The review (The Role of Prunes in Modulating Inflammatory Pathways to Improve Bone Health in Postmenopausal Women), published in the journal Advances in Nutrition (February 2022) by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, examined a variety of studies.

Bones are living tissues in a constant state of renewal—new bone is made and old bone is broken down daily. Bone loss and osteoporosis occur when the generation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the loss of old bone. At a young age, the body makes new bone faster than it breaks down the old one—therefore, the bone mass increases. After the early 20s, this process slows. Most people reach their peak bone mass by age 30. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it’s generated, resulting in weak and brittle bones, the hallmark of osteoporosis. Some of the factors that contribute to the development of osteoporosis are oxidative stress and inflammation.

Eventually, bones may become so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses—such as bending over or coughing—can cause a fracture, especially in the hip, wrist or spine. Although osteoporosis affects men and women of all races, white and Asian women, especially older women who are past menopause, are at highest risk of developing it. The condition affects more than 200 million women worldwide, causing almost nine million fractures each year.

The researchers found that the bone protective effects of prunes may derive from their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. According to lead author Connie Rogers, in postmenopausal women lower levels of estrogen can trigger a rise of oxidative stress and inflammation, increasing the risk of weakening bones that may lead to fractures. Incorporating prunes into the diet may help protect bones by slowing or reversing this process.

She said: “Osteoporosis represents a major public health issue with women over 50 years old. Non-pharmaceutical nutritional interventions are becoming increasingly popular, and prunes have been extensively studied as a potential intervention in some populations. There is increasing evidence that the bone protective effects of prunes may be connected to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, and it is possible that changes to the gut from eating prunes may also be involved in favorable bone outcomes.”

The new findings underscore the health benefits of fruits and vegetables rich in bioactive compounds such as phenolic acid, flavonoids and carotenoids. The crinkled and wrinkly prunes are definitely among those that rank high in the superfoods list.

The Global Fool 2013 – 2022 ©


  • Ray Kinney

    When the body comes under stresses of old age, illness, or pregnancy the need for quick calcium can lead to taking it out of the bone stores, With the stresses on physiology of Covid 19, this can reduce bone density. Also, given the need to increase Vitamin D3 (hormone) for helping the immune system and other pathways, the D3 increase brings more calcium uptake from the gut. More calcium can then circulate in some tissue pools, bringing a risk of calcification where it is harmful. Vitamin K2 mk7 is needed transporter for getting this excess Ca put into bone. It is unfortunate that the current medical paradigm too often does not add K2mk7 when we are told to increase our D3 levels. IMHO

  • Ray Kinney

    We ALL have lead stored in our bones, yet it becomes dangerous once again when the body seeks more calcium from bone stores because of a need under any kind of stress (eg. illness, pregnancy, old age). It comes out with the calcium, at just the most vulnerable of times to once again harm our immune and neurologic systems. And, this harm can take the form of lessened intelligence, which could go a long way toward explaining some of the craziness we are all seeing all around us. Testing for relative bone lead across society would clarify a lot about health issues compared to the usual reliance on just using the blood lead levels that are only transient as a marker for lead contamination IMHO. Body burden of lead in bone is an important co-morbidity for Covid 19, and many other physiologic disease associations and causations. We all have acquired increased lead body burden in our bones, 100 to 1000 time those found in prehistoric bone. Ask your doctor about how the research clarifies the dangers as we age.

  • Ray Kinney

    Since Covid started, I have been education myself (hopefully) about immune system improvement. A major part of this is related to getting safely exposed to light outdoors. We have gone way off on a tangent of sun avoidance IMHO, due to oversimplified fear of cancer. We no longer get all of the benefits of sunlight, essential immune system benefits. Production of vitamin D3 (hormone) in the skin, NIR near infra red stimulation of melatonin production in mitochondria to modulate ROS, and anti-cancer sunlight benefits, all get drastically reduced in our trending lifestyles and houses. All of this has led me to understand much more of the research on D3. When we supplement D3 in the winter months, to get our blood levels up out of very low ranges, we also increase absoption of calcium from the gut. This can become a problem, espescially if supplementing with added calcium to counter bone density declines as we age. Excess calcium circulating in the blood can begin to sequester in tissues where it should not do so. Vitamin K2 mk7 is suggested as a transporter of blood calcium to move it into bone where it can be more safely stored as density, and a resource for times of body stress including illness, old age, or pregnancy. Ask your doctor about the related research. Take K2 mk7, if not counter indicated.

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