Study backs dried plums for stronger bones

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Osteoporosis

Polyphenol-rich dried plums may boost bone strength and density by
up-regulating growth factors linked to bone formation, reports a
new study from the US.

The in vitro​ study deepens our understanding of the potential benefits of plums, and compliments previous animal and human clinical studies that reported benefits. Writing in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry​, the researchers explain that, while previous studies have reported benefits, it was not previously known how​ polyphenols from dried plum polyphenols influenced bone health. "It is possible that dietary consumption of dried plums could serve as a source of polyphenolic compounds that favorably modulate both bone formation and resorption, and provide a natural alternative for individuals at risk of osteoporosis,"​ wrote the authors from Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences. Osteoporosis is estimated to affect about 75m people in Europe, the USA and Japan. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, the total direct cost of osteoporotic fractures is €31.7bn in Europe, and 17.5bn in the US (2002 figure). The total annual cost of osteoporosis in the UK alone is over £1.7bn (€2.5bn), equivalent to £5m (€7.3m) each day. Study details ​ Researchers, So Young Bu, Tamara Hunt, and Brenda Smith, used mouse cells (MC3T3-E1) to examine the effects of different concentrations of dried plum polyphenols, ranging from zero to 20 micrograms per millilitre. Twenty-four hours after incubation with the polyphenols they introduced tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha, 0 or 1.0 nanograms per millilitre). TNF-alpha is known to inhibit the activity of osteoblasts - cells responsible for bone formation. Polyphenol doses of 5, 10 and 20 micrograms per millilitre were found to enhance the production of compounds linked to bone formation. These doses also countered the detrimental effects of TNF-alpha addition. "We have demonstrated that dried plum polyphenols effectively enhance osteoblast activity and mineralization under normal and inflammatory conditions,"​ wrote Bu, Hunt, and Smith. "The findings of this study suggest that the polyphenols in dried plum are at least in part responsible for the anabolic effects of dried plum reported in previous animal studies,"​ they added. Despite the promising results, the researchers added a note of caution that the findings are limited to a cell line and this "may not reflect the effects of dried plum or its polyphenols in a more relevant physiological environment." Clinical trials ​ Florida State University researchers launched a randomised clinical trial in early 2007 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. "If the findings from [this] human study are similarly positive and reproducible [as results from a 2004 animal study], they could help researchers isolate the compounds responsible," said lead researcher Professor Bahram Arjmandi at the launch of the trial. 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. Source: The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry​ Published online ahead of print 20 May 2008, doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2007.11.012 "Dried plum polyphenols attenuate the detrimental effects of TNF-alpha on osteoblast function coincident with up-regulation of Runx2, Osterix and IGF-I" ​Authors: S.Y. Bu, T.S. Hunt, B.J. Smith

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