What can prunes do for your bones?

“Can prunes reverse bone loss?” asked Scientific American in March 2017. As it turns out, prunes may have benefits beyond the bathroom.

“There’s preliminary data from test-tube and animal studies that the polyphenols in prunes are beneficial to bone,” says Mary Jane De Souza, a professor of kinesiology and physiology at Penn State University.

What about evidence in people? Two studies—one supported by the California Dried Plum Board—have looked. Both reported that postmenopausal women who were given about 6 or 12 prunes a day lost less bone after six months or a year than those who got dried apple or no fruit at all.1,2

“But the studies were small, and some of the bone data was presented in a non-traditional way,” says De Souza. For example, the papers reported the ratio of change in the participants’ bone density, which is unusual, but not the actual density. That makes the data difficult to interpret.

“But the data look promising because the women who were eating prunes lost less bone than the other groups,” she says.

De Souza is doing a one-year study on 200 postmenopausal women, also funded by the California Dried Plum Board.

“We’re looking at bone mineral density, structure, and strength,” she says. “Density tells you how much bone is there, but structure and strength tell you how good it is.”

Bottom Line: Ongoing research will shed more light on whether prunes benefit bones. While you’re waiting, keep in mind that 6 to 12 prunes means about 120 to 240 calories.


1Br. J. Nutr. 106: 923, 2011.
2Osteoporos. Int. 27: 2271, 2016.


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19 Replies to “What can prunes do for your bones?”

  1. My old GP, now retired, told me that prunes contained some substance that were effective in moving things along in the colon but did so without stimulating the muscles of the colon to expand and contract so prolonged use of prunes would result in lazy colon muscles. Certainly not what we want! Eating fiber and water doesn’t have that negative effect. This is a question to investigate instead of blindly following the money from the prune inidustry.

    1. I would want to know the doctor’s source of information and if he’s the only person knowing this. If so, I’d question it. If other studies give his same thought, that makes a difference.

  2. As a health professional, when you come across this type of data, you look at several things to determine if the study is a sound one-sample size, funding, randomized, placebo controlled, etc. Any study funded by the organization which stands to profit financially is suspect. This is one of the reasons the NIH was established. Unfortunately, many who work there are controlled by corporate interests, profits and greed.
    All this being said, I welcome an evidence-based study (oh excuse me Mr. Trump. We cannot use the words “evidence-based anymore)! No matter, I’m using it where it applies! I would welcome an evidence-based study on prune intake and its effect on retarding bone loss in postmenopausal women. As a matter of fact, I think I will start researching it today, along with other lifestyle factors that retard bone loss in menopause, as I am now in this very category. Perhaps I can then supply a scientifically sound argument for or against the mighty prune!
    Mary Gilbertson MS, CNS, BSN, CHHC
    Nutrition & Lifestyle Educator

    1. Thank you for your scientifically “evidence-based” assessment of this article.
      As a retire health professional I too, am horrified by the edict against science and it is sad to read the comments here by those who think they are reaching for science-based information for their health but fail to understand the scope of the attack on all sciences under this administration and its funders and those who believe that science is anti-religious.

      I am also alarmed by the ad placed inside this article. It makes the content highly suspect.

  3. Dear Mary- The fact that you would grasp at a subject like prune research to make sarcastic comments about the president shows that you have nothing of value to add to the conversation. How about #NotMyHealth Professional

    1. But, Fred, what Mary said is true – she is just pointing out a frustration that many people share. And it’s unfortunate that you apparently did not read the rest of what she wrote – otherwise, you would not say that she has nothing of value to add to the conversation. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cdc-gets-list-of-forbidden-words-fetus-transgender-diversity/2017/12/15/f503837a-e1cf-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html?utm_term=.df68a7ac8569

  4. Mary and Fred I agree with you both. When did Nutrition Action start publishing things with ads attached??? This has a Sunsweet Amazin Prune ad on it?? WHY??? Then, I, for one am tired of receiving daily emails bashing the President for more than what needs to be said. Just wish they would just keep the politics when and where needed to help keep public nutritional information moving. Period. Nothing more added.

  5. Mary Gillbertson; I appreciate the comment about our non-scientific President. I believe Trump is an anti-science dolt and buffoon. Like many voters did, I want-ed substantial change in our governance and only because of my extreme dislike of Trump I voted for H. Clinton. The more that comes out about her, the more I know that she would have been as bad or worse than Trump. This nation has much to learn about the value of distrusting our politicians from both sides of the aisle

  6. Enough negativity! We FINALLY have a president who ACTUALLY cares about the constitution & this country! Let’s give him support and a chance to make America great AGAIN! He just might surprise you!!!

  7. I see the ad too but that is not coming, I am sure, from NAH or benefiting them, it is the internet powers whose ad-feeding uses key words.
    Hopefully everyone reading NAH understands and respects science …

  8. I started subscribing to this newsletter specifically because of the reputation for CSPI as an objective resource for nutrition information. I’m disappointed to see a study funded by an organization that stands to benefit from its outcomes reported on with an advertisement for the product within the report.

  9. If one is looking to prunes to get polyphenols, in my opinion, there are better sources. A French team of scientists has compiled a list of sources, in order of how rich a source of polyphenols the food is. I could not find a direct link to the list, but I did find an indirect one:


    (I am unfamiliar with this web site, but its publication of this list appears reliable.)

    Plums are no. 11 on the list, which suggests that prunes are a reliable source. And before fresh fruit was regularly available in the market all year, dried fruit like prunes might have been a good choice. However, many other foods, particularly fruit, are as good or better, so I see no need eat fruit in a form that is almost as dense with sugar as candy.

    For more technical information about the quantity and availability of polyphenols in a wide variety of foods, see the following article:

  10. CSPI doesn’t place the ads. They’re placed by computer algorithm which matches to words in articles/searches. They’re placed by your browser.

    I agree that politics should be kept out of the conversation, but so should reactions (also political?) to said comments. A simple, “Let’s keep away from politics” would do IMO.

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