March 10, 2023 Grace Diaz

Osteoporosis: Prunes May Help Preserve Bone Mass, Fight Inflammation

  • 10 million Americans age 50 and older have osteoporosis, but women are 4 times more likely to develop the condition.
  • A new study shows that postmenopausal women who consume prunes have a decreased risk for bone loss associated with osteoporosis.
  • Prunes contain many nutrients associated with bone health, but more research is needed to understand how prunes work to mitigate bone loss.
  • Experts caution against relying on prune consumption as a treatment for osteoporosis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, nearly 20% of women 50 years of age and older are living with osteoporosis of the femur, neck, or lumbar spine.

However, two new studies from Pennsylvania State University found that eating prunes daily could help prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women.

The findings of both studies are based on data from the same 235 postmenopausal women and were shared in a poster session at the North American Menopause Society’s (NAMS) annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

The research was funded by the California Prune Board.

Osteoporosis can affect anyone, but women at highest risk

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)Trusted Source say about 10 million American adults over 50 have osteoporosis, but women are 4 times more likely than men to develop the condition.

This bone loss is caused partly by age and partly by declining estrogen levels, which contributes to increased inflammation that suppresses bone formation, according to NAMSTrusted Source.

Inflammation associated with bone loss

The first of the two new studies looked at the relationship between cells called inflammatory mediators, which release inflammation-reducing substances, and different measures of bone health, including bone density and strength.

“Our findings demonstrate that inflammatory markers are negatively associated with bone health in postmenopausal women, suggesting that inflammation might be an important mediator for postmenopausal bone loss and a potential target for nutritional therapies,” Connie Rogers, PhD, MPH, professor and head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Georgia, said in a statement.

Women who ate prunes vs. those who didn’t

The other studyTrusted Source compared four groups to discover what benefit eating prunes may have to prevent bone loss.

There was a control group that did not eat prunes, a group that ate 5 to 6 prunes per day, a group that ate 10 to 12 prunes daily, and a combined group – which consisted of women eating either 5 to 6, or 10 to 12 prunes daily.

“Our latest research represents the largest trial, with a cohort of over 200 postmenopausal women, to investigate the connection between prunes and favorable bone health,” the study’s chief investigator, Mary Jane De Souza, PhD, FACSM, told Healthline.

The ‘prune effect’
“Through prior smaller studies, researchers have reported what is being referred to as the positive ‘prune effect,’ revealing that prunes seem to play an important role in bone health,” De Souza explained.

She explained that this larger, randomized controlled trial (RCT) was conducted to validate and replicate findings from earlier smaller trials suggesting prunes may be a “promising, non-pharmacological nutrition intervention” for preserving bone and maintaining bone density and strength.

Prunes prevent bone loss
De Souza’s findings also indicated that the pooled group of women experienced measurable bone benefits.

“While we were not necessarily surprised by the current results given previous studies that have also shown positive correlations to bone health,” she said.

“This study is the largest randomized controlled trial conducted to date on the topic, so we were quite pleased to see this type of result among such a substantial sample size.”