Do prunes strengthen your bones?

“Prunes Could Make Your Bones 20% Stronger” claims a well-known health publication, citing a new study out of Texas A&M.  The article goes on to quote the lead researcher, who recommends eating 4 or 5 prunes a day.

Let’s take a closer look at the details, shall we?

The study was done on mice. It was designed to see whether prunes might protect against bone-loss caused by radiation. The mice ate the human equivalent of 30 prunes a day for 2 weeks. (Hope they had convenient access to their tiny little latrines.)  Then they were exposed to a large dose of radiation. The next day, the effects of the radiation on markers of bone loss were tested. The prunes protected bones from the acute effects of radiation.

There is absolutely nothing in this study to support the conclusion that eating 4 or 5 prunes a day would increase the strength of your bones by 20%. At best (and even this is a stretch), this study suggests that if you are headed into outer space, where you will be exposed to high doses of total body radiation, eating 30 prunes a day might help protect your bones from the immediate effects of that radiation. Assuming no significant differences between you and a mouse.

Are Prunes Good for Bones?

There are a couple of other mouse studies showing that prunes (in similarly large quantities) have beneficial effects on bone health. Promising but still extremely preliminary. Even if it turns out that prunes do provide some bone-strengthening benefits in humans, keeping your bones strong will never come down to a single food or nutrient. For that you need a nutrient-rich diet (including plenty of protein, calcium , vitamin D, and vitamin K), not to mention weight bearing exercise and sufficient sleep.

Even though the research is far from conclusive, there’s no reason not to include a few prunes in your nutrient-rich, bone-building diet and lifestyle. They are rich in antioxidants, tasty, convenient, and offer other salutary benefits, such as preventing or relieving constipation.

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