More than a simple snack, prune’s have achieved superfood status due to their known benefits on bone, digestive, and cardiovascular health. Now, two new studies add further evidence to confirm the positive role that prunes have on overall health.
The Prune Study, published in the July 2022 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is a 12-month randomized controlled trial that looked at California Prunes, bone density, and bone structure in postmenopausal women aged 55-75 years. It’s the most comprehensive investigation of a dose-response relationship of prune consumption on bone health, immune function, inflammation, and cardiovascular health to-date.1 The California Prune Board provided funding support.
For the study, researchers randomized 235 women into either a control group (no prune consumption), 50 g prune’s per day (about 5 prunes), or 100 g prune per day (about 10 prunes). The researchers found that total hip bone mineral density decreased in the control group, while the 50 g prune group preserved bone mineral density. They concluded that 50 g of prune’s daily can prevent the loss of total hip bone mineral density in postmenopausal women, and that the effect persists for 12 months.
This study builds on a previous comprehensive review of 24 studies on prunes and bone health which showed that prunes enhance bone formation and exert beneficial effects on bone mineral density.2 The bone health benefits of prunes are likely due to their unique combination of bone-building nutrients including vitamin K, boron, manganese, and potassium.
The benefits of prune’s extend well beyond bone health. They also play a role in digestive health, by enhancing the gut microbiome, preventing constipation, and easing laxation. Past studies show that prunes are tastier and more effective than psyllium fibre for the treatment of mild to moderate constipation and should be considered as a first line therapy to ease laxation.3
In a new study published in the June 2022 issue of the journal Langenbeck’s Archives of Surgery, researchers looked at the role that prunes play in hastening bowel movements after surgery.4 The researchers looked at 77 adult women who had benign gynecologic surgery that required at least one night in the hospital. They were assigned to either have 4 oz (113 g) prunes (about 10-12 prunes) daily plus the stool softener docusate sodium (100 g) twice daily, or docusate sodium alone (without prunes).
“While adding prunes didn’t decrease the time to the first bowel movement, more women in the group eating prunes had a bowel movement in the first three days after their surgery,” says Dr. Melody Rasouli, one of the researchers on this study, which was conducted at the University of Southern California.
“Women who had at least 12 prunes post-operatively were discharged home earlier from the hospital,” says Rasouli. “Incorporating non-pharmacologic methods to improve bowel function, whether that’s through prunes, caffeine, or early ambulation, can be a helpful adjunct to the care we provide women.”
It is thought that the combination of unique compounds in prune’s, including fiber, sorbitol and chlorogenic acids, contribute to their laxative effect. No other dried fruit can compare. There’s hope that future studies can determine if the simple, well-tolerated addition of prunes to the diet could be an effective post-surgical addition after other surgeries as well.
The bone and digestive health benefits of prunes rely on a daily serving of at least 50 grams of prunes, or about five whole prunes. It’s easy to add California Prunes to the diet! Enjoy them as a portable snack, toss a few on salad, bake them into quick breads or muffins, add them to pancake batter, feature them in pasta or rice dishes, or blend them into soups and smoothies. Plus, as a dried fruit, they are always in season.
(1) Mary Jane De Souza, Nicole C A Strock, Nancy I Williams, Hang Lee, Kristen J Koltun, Connie Rogers, Mario G Ferruzzi, Cindy H Nakatsu, Connie Weaver, Prunes preserve hip bone mineral density in a 12-month randomized controlled trial in postmenopausal women: the Prune Study, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2022;, nqac189, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqac189
(2) Wallace TC. Dried Plums, Prunes and Bone Health: A Comprehensive Review. Nutrients. 2017 Apr 19;9(4):401. doi: 10.3390/nu9040401. PMID: 28422064; PMCID: PMC5409740.
(3) Attaluri A, Donahoe R, Valestin J, Brown K, Rao SS. Randomised clinical trial: dried plums (prunes) vs. psyllium for constipation. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011;33(7):822-828. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04594.x
(4) Rasouli, M.A., Dancz, C.E., Dahl, M. et al. Effect of prunes on gastrointestinal function after benign gynecological surgery: a randomized control trial. Langenbecks Arch Surg (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00423-022-02584-8