15 January 2007

Osteoporosis: plum benefits tested

Researchers in Florida are undertaking a clinical trial to test the role of dried plums in the bone health of postmenopausal women.

Researchers in Florida are undertaking a clinical trial to test the role of dried plums in the bone health of postmenopausal women.

Florida State University’s Professor Bahram Arjmandi is leading a randomised clinical trial to examine the effects of prunes or dried apples on the bone mineral density of post-menopausal women, an age-group at highest risk of osteoporosis.

Good results in rats
The work follows Arjmandi’s 2004 female rat study from his time at Oklahoma State University, that reported a diet supplemented with dried plums produced significant restoration of bone mass.

"I've never seen results that were more consistent," said Prof Arjmandi. "If the findings from FSU's human study are similarly positive and reproducible, they could help researchers isolate the compounds responsible."

And this could mean opportunities for supplements, suggested Arjmandi, despite noting that eating the fruit itself is the best way to benefit from the potent, concentrated plant-based chemicals such as polyphenols.

“Many women prefer to modify their lifestyle and dietary practices in order to prevent fracture due to osteoporosis,” he said.

How the study was done
The FSU researchers have randomly assigned their post-menopausal recruits to receive either a daily supplement of 100g of prunes (approximately nine or ten fruit) or an equal amount of dried apples. The trial does not include a placebo group.

"Our FSU research is unique in that all participants, women between two and 10 years postmenopausal, can hope to potentially benefit in some manner," said Arjmandi in a release.

"During this 12-month investigation, half the women will supplement their daily diets with nine to ten dried plums, totalling 100g. The other half will consume a comparable portion of dried apples, which also have known health benefits. For instance, several studies indicate that a daily helping of pectin-rich apples can help lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels," he said.

Women in both intervention groups will also receive daily supplements of calcium (500mg) and vitamin D (200IU) and will undergo blood and urine tests every three months. Bone mineral density measurements were taken at baseline and will be taken again at the end using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, or iDXA, said to be the latest in whole-body scanning technology.

New technology used
iDXA (or intelligent DXA) is the newest in the bone densitometry technology, capable of measuring both bone and body composition (fat and lean tissue) with higher precision, accuracy and speed than any of the previous DXA models.

It is said to be able to accommodate heavier patients and measure their bone and body composition accurately, which was not the case with the previous models.

"Given its rapidly growing and ageing population, the state of Florida has been an ideal location for this research," said Arjmandi.

Plans for further studies have already begun, he confirmed. "Currently, my colleagues and I are preparing a major proposal for the US National Institutes of Health that exceeds $1.5 million, which would enable a longer, more extensive dried plum investigation in both male and female animal models of osteoporosis." - (Decision News Media, January 2007)

Read more:
Osteoporosis Centre
A-Z of plums and prunes


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