Dried Plums May Help Astronauts Build Better Bones

Emerging Animal Research Suggests Dried Plums Help Prevent Bone Loss in Those Exposed to Radiation

Feb 11, 2016, 09:00 ET from California Dried Plum Board

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Exciting new animal research, published in Scientific Reports today, suggests that dried plums may help to prevent bone loss in those exposed to radiation, such as astronauts in space. This research is timely as a year-long space mission to help scientists better understand the effects of space on the human body is about to conclude in March. Additionally, radiation workers and those who receive radiation therapy as part of a treatment for cancer are also subject to possible bone loss from exposure to radiation. While dried plums have been linked to bone health in previous studies, this emerging research explores the bone-preserving role of dried plums specific to radiation exposure.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and Veterans Affairs, University of California, Irvine and Texas A&M University looked at the effect of various antioxidant or anti-inflammatory interventions – including an antioxidant cocktail, dihydrolipoic acid (antioxidant), ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory), dried plum powder (antioxidant) and a control – on mice that received radiation. Researchers observed that the dried plum powder was the most effective in reducing undesired bone marrow cells' responses to radiation compared to the other interventions. Additionally, the researchers observed that mice on the dried plum diet did not exhibit decrements (bone volume loss) after exposure to radiation in any of the structural parameters measured. The results of this study suggest that dried plums may serve as an effective intervention for bone loss due to unavoidable exposure to space radiation or radiation therapy.

"Preserving bone strength during space travel is a serious issue faced by astronauts," notes Researcher Bernard Halloran, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and Veterans Affairs. "Radiation-induced bone loss resembles the age-related structural changes of osteoporosis. But health concerns remain with current remedies, such as secondary effects from drug treatments. This preliminary research provides promising hope that something as easy as eating dried plums may be able to counter the negative aspects of space travel on bone health."

Previous clinical trials also indicate that dried plums may help to preserve bone health. A clinical research study published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests eating two servings (about 10 to 12 dried plums) daily, may improve bone mineral density (BMD) and slow the rate of bone turnover in post-menopausal women.1 New research shows eating half that amount daily, just slightly more than one serving, (about 5 to 6 dried plums), may also help prevent bone loss in post-menopausal women.2

Additionally, emerging animal research presented as an abstract at the Ninth International Symposium on Nutritional Aspects of Osteoporosis by Halloran suggests that dried plums may help to achieve peak bone mass during growth. Halloran's research found that including dried plums in the diet helped to increase bone volume in young, growing mice and also in young adult and adult mice by as much as 100 percent.

"These findings are remarkable and add to the growing body of research that dried plums help support healthy bones," says Halloran. "We would love to further investigate the effect of dried plums on bone health for those who have been exposed to radiation, since this provides a promising and practical way to counter the detrimental effects of radiation on bone strength. Additional research will also help us to determine more about the specific mechanism that allows dried plums to have a protective effect on our skeleton."

In addition to bone health benefits, research links dried plums to benefits on digestive and heart health. A clinical trial comparing the effect of dried plums and psyllium on constipation found dried plums to be a more effective treatment for constipation than psyllium.3 Additionally, animal research suggests that dried plums may help to slow the development of atherosclerosis.4

California dried plums are The Whole Package – they contain vitamins and minerals such as potassium, copper, boron and vitamin K which may have bone protective effects. Vitamin K specifically helps improve calcium balance and promotes bone mineralization. A 40 gram serving of dried plums (4 to 5 prunes) is considered an excellent source of Vitamin K, which provides 30 percent of the 80 microgram Daily Value.

One serving of dried plums is also a good source of fiber for about 100 calories. Dried plums require no refrigeration and can be enjoyed as a convenient snack or incorporated into sweet or savory dishes. Whether whole, chopped or puréed in meals, California Dried Plums are a great way to boost the nutritional value in recipes.

Find more information on research, recipes and how-to videos at www.californiadriedplums.org. Follow the California Dried Plum Board on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

California Dried Plum Board (CDPB): The CDPB represents 900 dried plum growers and 22 dried plum packers under the authority of the California Secretary of Food and Agriculture. Revered as part of California's rich history, the dried plum remains a vital player in California's economic wealth. California produces 99 percent of the United States' and 41 percent of the world's supply of dried plums, a convenient, healthy snack for today's busy lifestyle. Bernard Halloran, PhD, has conducted research funded by the CDPB. The CDPB provided the dried plum powder used in the study.

For more information about Scientific Reports visit: http://www.nature.com/srep/ and http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/srep21343.

1 Hooshmand et al. Comparative effects of dried plum and dried apple on bone in postmenopausal women. Br J Nutr. 2011 Sep; 106(6):923-30.
2 Metti et al. Effects of Low Dose of Dried Plum (50 g) on Bone Mineral Density and Bone Biomarkers in Older Postmenopausal Women. April  2015 The FASEB Journal vol. 29 no. 1 Supplement738.12
3 Attaluri et al. Randomized clinical trial: dried plums (prunes) vs. psyllium for constipation. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Apr;33(7):822-8.
4 Gallaher CM, Gallaher DD. Dried plums (prunes) reduce atherosclerosis lesion area in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. British Journal of Nutrition. 2009;101(2):233–239.

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