Are there benefits if you eat prunes for osteoporosis? Is there scientific evidence showing that prunes improve bone density or slow down the erosion of bone? How many prunes a day should you eat if you want to see benefits for your bones? Those of you concerned about gaining weight might want to know how many calories in a prune and how many carbohydrates in prunes?
I set out to answer these questions and learn more about this major food source. I consulted research published in 2017 on the topic and consulted with the leading researcher on prunes and osteoporosis. Before we get into the details of the research, lets present the benefits of prunes for osteoporosis.
Benefits of Prunes for Osteoporosis
Research demonstrates that daily consumption of prunes is beneficial for post-menopausal women with osteoporosis. Prunes slow down the turn-over of bone by enhancing bone formation and inhibiting bone resorption. The effectiveness of prunes for osteoporosis can be compared with osteoporosis medications such as bisphosphonates and Prolia but without the side effects.
However, prunes alone are not the answer to stronger bones and fall reduction. You should follow a number of other healthy habits including practicing a bone healthy osteoporosis exercise program, getting adequate levels of calcium from natural sources, and consuming Vitamin D and Vitamin K.
Prunes and Bone Density
What is the relationship between prunes and bone density? In this section, I present the work done by two leading researchers on prunes and bone density that support the role prunes play in improving bone health. We start with recent work done by Dr. Taylor Wallace and then go to an interview I had with Dr. Shirin Hooshmand.
A comprehensive review in 2017 by Dr. Taylor Wallace at the Department of Nutrition at George Mason University was published in the Nutrients journal (1). His review examined twenty-four published studies on prunes and osteoporosis. I reviewed this publication and interviewed Dr. Shirin Hooshmand, Associate Professor at the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University, about the subject. Dr. Hooshmand is a leading researcher on prunes and osteoporosis.
Dr. Taylor Wallace: Dried Plums, Prunes and Bone Health
Dr. Wallace identified fifty articles in the PubMed database that studied prunes and bone density. Of the fifty articles, twenty-four were deemed worthy of detailed review. After reviewing the various studies, Dr. Wallace concluded:
“Prunes have a unique nutrient and dietary bioactive profile and are suggested to exert beneficial effects on bone.”
Further, Dr. Wallace found that “the beneficial effects of prunes on bone health may be in part due to the variety of phenolics present in the fruit.”
Dr. Wallace went on to explain how prunes affect bone density: “Prunes and/or their extracts (such as prune juice) enhance bone formation and inhibit bone resorption through their actions on cell signalling pathways that influence osteoblast and osteoclast differentiation.”
He concludes his study by stating: “this review suggests that postmenopausal women may safely consume prunes as part of their fruit intake recommendations given their potential to have protective effects on bone loss.”
Dr. Shirin Hooshmand: Prunes and Postmenopausal Women
Dr. Shirin Hooshmand is the Associate Professor at the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University. Dr. Hooshmand is a leading researcher on nutrition and osteoporosisosis. Her research focuses on the role that natural and synthetic compounds play in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, osteopenia and low bone density.
I met Dr. Shirin Hooshmand at the National Osteoporosis Foundation meeting in New Orleans. She recently completed a study that identified the best food for osteoporosis. The answer: prunes.
Dr. Hooshmand states that almost 12 years of research has shown that dried plums or prunes are the most effective food for improving bone density in humans and animals. Her research shows that 100 grams of prunes (about 9 to 10 prunes) per day is the most effective dose.
Prunes for Osteoporosis: 100 Grams per Day
Dr. Hooshmand explained that post-menopausal women are prone to bone loss. They lose normally 1 to 1.5% bone per year if there are no treatments including hormone replacement therapy or bone medication such as Prolia or bisphsphonates.
With a daily dose of 100 grams of prunes, Dr. Hooshmand has observed that post-menopausal women with osteoporosis or osteopenia did not lose any bone after a year. Further, they increased their bone density up to 1% per year
Both short-term and long-term clinical studies have shown that 100 grams of prunes (which is equal to 9 to 10 dried plums or prunes per day) is the most effective food in terms of reducing bone loss and preventing bone loss.
Prunes for Osteoporosis: 50 Grams per Day
Dr. Hooshmand published a study in 2016 on the effectiveness of lower dosages of prunes. She found that some of the people in her earlier study were concerned that 100 grams is too much, especially if you have a small body frame. One hundred grams of prunes is equal to 240 calories per day.
Her team studied the effectiveness of a lower dose of 50 grams, which is equal to 5 to 6 dried plums or prunes per day. They tried to determine if the lower dose could be as effective as a 100 gram daily dose.
The study (2), published in 2016, showed that women who took a daily does of 50 grams a day of prunes for a six month period prevented a loss of total body bone mineral density and that the lower does may be as effective as the higher daily dose of 100 grams.
However, the study did not show a loss prevention in the hip or spine. Some scientists who reviewed this study speculate that the loss prevention did not show in the hips and spine because of the short six month duration of the intervention and therefore, the lower dose might, in the end, be very effective. Dr. Hooshmand plans on doing longer term studies to address this question.
Therefore, Dr. Hooshmand recommends 50 grams of prunes per day.
How Many Prunes a Day Should You Eat?
To get the best results, Dr. Hooshmand (and other researchers) recommend that you consume 100 grams (between 9 and 10 prunes) a day. If you are concerned about weight gain or you are on a low carbohydrate diet, then you can reduce your daily dose to 50 grams.
If you have diabetes, you might want to limit your intake of prunes because of the sugar composition. Finally you should also monitor your laxation because of its effects on constipation.
How Many Calories in a Prune?
The table below breaks dow the nutrient composition of prunes including specifying how many calories in a prune and carbohydrates in prunes. A daily serving of 100 grams of prunes (between 9 and 10 prunes depending on size of the prune) has 240 calories.
|Daily Intake||# of Prunes||Calories||Carbohydrates||Dietary Fiber||Net Carbs||Potassium||Vitamin K|
|100 Grams||9 to 10||240||65 grams||7.5 grams||57.5 grams||700 mg||55 mg|
|50 Grams||5 to 6||120||33 grams||4 grams||29 grams||350 mg||27 mg|
The USDA has published a detailed breakdown of the nutrient content of prunes.
How Many Carbohydrates in Prunes?
A daily serving of 100 grams of prunes (between 9 and 10 prunes depending on size of the prune) has 65 grams of carbohydrates. Net carbohydrates (carbohydrates less the dietary fiber) amounts to 57.5 grams. Net carbohydrates affect your blood sugar level.
Prunes and Nutrition
There are a number of important health benefits of prunes beyond improving bone health. Prunes have high dietary fiber content and significant amounts of phenolics (chlorogenic acid) and sorbitol. As a result, prunes have a laxative effect and can be an effective and natural way to treat constipation.
There are a number of important vitamins in prunes. A serving of four prunes provides 280 milligrams of potassium and 22 micrograms of vitamin K. Because prunes have a higher amount of vitamin K compared to other popular fruits may help improve calcium balance more than other food sources.
Prunes and Blood Sugar Levels
Many people are concerned that prunes contain too much sugar and could increase sugar levels in the blood. While they are relatively high in carbohydrates, research has shown that they do not cause an material rise in blood sugar levels (3, 4). Prunes have the potential to increase levels of adiponectin, a hormone that plays a role in blood sugar regulation, which in turn keeps a lid on sugar levels. (4)
When compared to other fruits, prunes has a lower level of sugar content and a lower Glycemic Index (GL). For example:
- 50 g or 4 to 5 prunes (depending on size) have 22.5 g of sugar / GL = 8.3
- 50 g of raisins have 30 g of sugar / GL = 23
- 50 g of dates has 35 g of sugar / GL = 15
Prunes and Osteoporosis: Recommendation
Recent research is clear that prunes are one of the most beneficial foods for osteoporosis. They also have other health benefits and they have few, if any, side effects.
Some individuals have reservations about how many prunes they should eat daily. While 100 grams a day appears to provide the best results, new research is showing that you gain considerable benefits by consuming 50 grams a day.
If you are sitting on the fence, you need to balance the clear benefits of eating prunes daily on the health of your bones as compared to what you believe to be the costs associated with prune consumption.
Prunes for Osteoporosis References
- Dried Plums, Prunes and Bone Health: A Comprehensive Review, Taylor Wallace, Nutrients, April 19, 2017
- The effect of two doses of dried plum on bone density and bone biomarkers in osteopenic postmenopausal women: a randomized, controlled trial, Hooshmand, Osteoporosis International 27(7), February 2016.
- Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis, M. Dried plums and their products: composition and health effects–an updated review. Critical Review Food Science Nutrition. 2013;53(12):1277-302
- Mirmiran, Parvin, et al. Functional foods-based diet as a novel dietary approach for management of type 2 diabetes and its complications: A review. World Journal Diabetes. June 15, 2014; 5(3):267-281
Prunes for Osteoporosis • Conclusion
Dr. Shirin Hooshmand is an Associate Professor at the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University. Her research demonstrates on prunes and osteoporosis that prunes play significant role in the prevention and reversal of osteoporosis. Here is an interview she did on behalf of the California Dried Plums Association.
For more information, check out my Osteoporosis Guidelines.