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Prunes or apples: Which are better for improving bone density or weight loss?

Research by the University of Liverpool has found that eating prunes as part of a weight control diet can improve weight loss. And in another study, prunes and plums were found to have positive effects on bone density.

Eating prunes as part of a weight control diet can improve weight loss. And in another study, prunes and plums were found to have positive effects on bone density.
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Eating prunes can help weight loss, says new research. The University of Liverpool has found that eating prunes as part of a weight control diet can improve weight loss. Consumption of dried fruit is not readily recommended during weight loss despite evidence it enhances feelings of fullness. However, a study by the University's Institute of Psychology, Health and Society of 100 overweight and obese low fiber consumers tested whether eating prunes as part of a weight loss diet helped or hindered weight control over a 12-week period.

It also examined whether low fiber consumers could tolerate eating substantial numbers of prunes in their diet, and if eating prunes had a beneficial effect on appetite. To assess the effects of prunes on weight and appetite, participants in the study were divided into two groups – those who ate prunes every day (140g a day for women and 171g a day for men) and those who were given advice on healthy snacks over the period of active weight loss.

High fiber in the fruit helped: Prune eaters had greater weight loss

The researchers found that members of the group which ate prunes as part of a healthy life-style diet lost 2kg in weight and shed 2.5cm off their waists. However, the people in the group which was given advice on healthy snacks lost only 1.5kg in weight and 1.7cm from their waists. The study also found that the prune eaters experienced greater weight loss during the last four weeks of the study.

After week eight, participants showed increased feelings of fullness in the prune group. Moreover, despite the high daily doses, prunes were well tolerated. Liverpool psychologist, Dr Jo Harrold who led the research, said, according to the May 30, 2014 news release, "These are the first data to demonstrate both weight loss and no negative side effects when consuming prunes as part of a weight management diet. Indeed in the long term they may be beneficial to dieters by tackling hunger and satisfying appetite; a major challenge when you are trying to maintain weight loss."

Professor Jason Halford, Professor of Experimental Psychology and Director of the University's Human Ingestive Behavior Laboratory, added, according to the news release, "Maintaining a healthy diet is challenging. Along with fresh fruit and vegetables, dried fruit can provide a useful and convenient addition to the diet, especially as controlling appetite during dieting can be tough."

Positive effect that dried plums (prunes) have on bone density

Most people know prunes are dried plums, but how many know that prunes may put a stop to bone loss? No bones about it: Eating dried plums helps prevent fractures and osteoporosis, says a recent Florida State University study. You also may wish to check out research news on other reserearch regarding bone density, "Severity of facial wrinkles may predict bone density in early menopause."

When it comes to improving bone health in postmenopausal women — and people of all ages, actually — a Florida State University researcher has found a simple, proactive solution to help prevent fractures and osteoporosis: eating dried plums.

"Over my career, I have tested numerous fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, and none of them come anywhere close to having the effect on bone density that dried plums, or prunes, have," said Bahram H. Arjmandi, according to the August 17, 2011news release, "No bones about it: Eating dried plums helps prevent fractures and osteoporosis." Florida State University's Margaret A. Sitton Professor and chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences in the Florida State University College of Human Sciences explained, according to the news release that "All fruits and vegetables have a positive effect on nutrition, but in terms of bone health, this particular food is exceptional."

Bahram Arjmandi is Florida State's Margaret A. Sitton Professor and chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Science at Florida State University. Arjmandi and a group of researchers from Florida State and Oklahoma State University tested two groups of postmenopausal women.

During a 12-month period, the first group, consisting of 55 women, was instructed to consume 100 grams of dried plums (about 10 prunes) each day, while the second — a comparative control group of 45 women — was told to consume 100 grams of dried apples. All of the study's participants also received daily doses of calcium (500 milligrams) and vitamin D (400 international units).

The group that consumed dried plums had significantly higher bone mineral density in the ulna (one of two long bones in the forearm) and spine, in comparison with the group that ate dried apples

This, according to Arjmandi, was due in part to the ability of dried plums to suppress the rate of bone resorption, or the breakdown of bone, which tends to exceed the rate of new bone growth as people age. The group's research, "Comparative Effects of Dried Plum and Dried Apple on Bone in Post Menopausal Women," is published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Arjmandi conducted the research with his graduate students Shirin Hooshmand, Sheau C. Chai and Raz L. Saadat of the College of Human Sciences; Dr. Kenneth Brummel-Smith, Florida State's Charlotte Edwards Maguire Professor and chairman of the Department of Geriatrics in the College of Medicine; and Oklahoma State University statistics Professor Mark E. Payton.

In the United States, about 8 million women have osteoporosis because of the sudden cessation of ovarian hormone production at the onset of menopause: What's more, about 2 million men also have osteoporosis

"In the first five to seven postmenopausal years, women are at risk of losing bone at a rate of 3 to 5 percent per year," Arjmandi said, according to the news release. "However, osteoporosis is not exclusive to women and, indeed, around the age of 65, men start losing bone with the same rapidity as women." Arjmandi encourages people who are interested in maintaining or improving their bone health to take note of the extraordinarily positive effect that dried plums have on bone density.

"Don't wait until you get a fracture or you are diagnosed with osteoporosis and have to have prescribed medicine," Arjmandi said in the news release. "Do something meaningful and practical beforehand. People could start eating two to three dried plums per day and increase gradually to perhaps six to 10 per day. Prunes can be eaten in all forms and can be included in a variety of recipes."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture funded Arjmandi's research. The California Dried Plum Board provided the dried plums for the study, as well as some funding to measure markers of oxidative stress.

Plums, peaches, and nectarines also are studied for their effects to prevent or help those with diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and breast cancer in other studies

Peaches, plums, nectarines give obesity, diabetes slim chance, says a recent study from Texas A&M AgriLife. Do your children or other family members show signs of metabolic syndrome? Peaches, plums and nectarines have bioactive compounds that can potentially fight-off obesity-related diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to new studies by Texas A&M AgriLife. Researchers presented the study back in August 2013, at the American Chemical Society. But research on the health benefits of peaches continues with new studies.

In the 2012 study, researchers showed that the compounds in stone fruits could be a weapon against "metabolic syndrome," in which obesity and inflammation lead to serious health issues, according to Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, AgriLife Research food scientist.

"In recent years obesity has become a major concern in society due to the health problems associated to it," said Cisneros-Zevallos, according to the June 18, 2012 news release, "Peaches, plums, nectarines give obesity, diabetes slim chance." Cisneros-Zevallos also is an associate professor at Texas A&M University. "In the U.S., statistics show that around 30 percent of the population is overweight or obese, and these cases are increasing every year in alarming numbers."

While he acknowledged that lifestyle, genetic predisposition and diet play a major role in one's tendency toward obesity, the major concern about obesity is the associated disease known as metabolic syndrome

"Our studies have shown that stone fruits – peaches, plums and nectarines – have bioactive compounds that can potentially fight the syndrome," Cisneros-Zevallos said, according to the news release, Peaches, plums, nectarines give obesity, diabetes slim chance. "Our work indicates that phenolic compounds present in these fruits have anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties in different cell lines and may also reduce the oxidation of bad cholesterol LDL which is associated to cardiovascular disease."

What is unique to these fruits, he said, is that their mixture of the bioactive compounds work simultaneously within the different components of the disease. "Our work shows that the four major phenolic groups – anthocyanins, clorogenic acids, quercetin derivatives and catechins – work on different cells – fat cells, macrophages and vascular endothelial cells," he explained in the news release.

"They modulate different expressions of genes and proteins depending on the type of compound. However, at the same time, all of them are working simultaneously in different fronts against the components of the disease, including obesity, inflammation, diabetes and cardiovascular disease," he said, according to the news release.

Cisneros-Zevallos said this is believed to be the first time that "bioactive compounds of a fruit have been shown to potentially work in different fronts against a disease"

"Each of these stone fruits contain similar phenolic groups but in differing proportions so all of them are a good source of health promoting compounds and may complement each other," he said in the news release, adding that his team plans to continue studying the role of each type of compound on the molecular mechanisms and confirm the work with mice studies.

The studies on the health benefits of stone fruit are funded by the California Tree Fruit Agreement, The California Plum Board, the California Grape and Tree Fruit League and the Texas Department of Agriculture. The Cisneros-Zevallos lab team in this study included Freddy Ibanez, Paula Castillo, Paula Simons and Dr. Congmei Cao.

Can two to three peaches a day keep certain cancers away?

Can this type of 'diet' obtain similar effects in humans as it did in mice? Texas researchers found that peaches inhibit breast cancer metastasis in mice, says new study, "Polyphenolics from peach (Prunus persica var. Rich Lady) inhibit tumor growth and metastasis of MDA-MB-435 breast cancer cells in vivo," published March 20, 2014 in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Lab tests at Texas Texas A&M AgriLife Research have shown that treatments with peach extract inhibit breast cancer metastasis in mice.

AgriLife Research scientists say that the mixture of phenolic compounds present in the peach extract are responsible for the inhibition of metastasis, according to the study. "Cancer cells were implanted under the skin of mice with an aggressive type of breast cancer cells, the MDA-MB-435, and what we saw was an inhibition of a marker gene in the lungs after a few weeks indicating an inhibition of metastasis when the mice were consuming the peach extract," said Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, according to a March 25, 2014 news release, "Texas researcher: Peaches inhibit breast cancer metastasis in mice."

Cisneros-Zevallos is a food scientist for AgriLife Research in College Station. "Furthermore, after determining the dose necessary to see the effects in mice, it was calculated that for humans it would be equivalent to consuming two to three peaches per day."

Peach and plum polyphenols selectively killed aggressive breast cancer cells and not the normal ones in the new study

This is very important because it can be translated into something that is also beneficial for people, he added, according to the news release. This work builds upon previous work at AgriLife Research released a few years ago, which showed that peach and plum polyphenols selectively killed aggressive breast cancer cells and not the normal ones, Cisneros-Zavallos said, according to the news release.

The previous work as well as the present one was conducted by Cisneros-Zevallos, Dr. David Byrne, both with AgriLife Research; Dr. Weston Porter, Texas A&M University department of veterinary physiology and pharmacology; and then-graduate student Giuliana Noratto, who is now on the faculty at Washington State University.

In the western hemisphere, breast cancer is the most common malignant disease for women, he said in the news release. In the U.S. last year, the American Cancer Society estimated about 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer among women. Most of the complications and high mortality associated with breast cancer are due to metastasis, Cisneros-Zevallos pointed out.

"The importance of our findings are very relevant, because it shows in vivo the effect that natural compounds, in this case the phenolic compounds in peach, have against breast cancer and metastasis. It gives opportunity to include in the diet an additional tool to prevent and fight this terrible disease that affects so many people," he said, according to the news release.

Most peach fruit share similar polyphenolic compounds but might differ in content

Researchers conducted the study using the peach variety Rich Lady. However, according to Cisneros-Zevallos, most peach fruit share similar polyphenolic compounds but might differ in content. The study also determined that the underlying mechanism by which peach polyphenols are inhibiting metastasis would be by targeting and modulating the gene expression of metalloproteinases.

"In general, peach fruit has chemical compounds that are responsible for killing cancer cells while not affecting normal cells as we reported previously, and now we are seeing that this mixture of compounds can inhibit metastasis," said Cisneros-Zevallos, according to the news release. "We are enthusiastic about the idea that perhaps by consuming only two to three peaches a day we can obtain similar effects in humans. However, this will have to be the next step in the study for its confirmation."

Cisneros-Zevallos continues testing these extracts and compounds in different types of cancer as well as in diabetes studies in vitro and in vivo to understand the molecular mechanisms involved. The work documenting the health benefits of stone fruit has been supported by the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at Texas A&M, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Tree Fruit Agreement.

There also are health benefits in apples

You may wish to check out the abstract of another recent study, "Long-term Yield and Harvest Time Fruit Quality Attributes in Various Fuji Apple Strains." It appears online in the March 2014 issue of the journal HortScience. Basically, several new apple varieties are recommended for growers. The long-term study found that new strains could boost consumer acceptance of 'Fuji' apples. Do consumers choose to eat an apple based on its variety, appealing taste, or its health value?

'Fuji' apples have become increasingly popular among consumers, but the apple variety faces some challenges on its path to full consumer appreciation. Research has determined that "consumer acceptance" of apples depends largely on fruit color, size, eating quality, and texture.

Consumers are very discerning: poor color can drastically reduce the value of red apples, even if their size is acceptable. The poor and inconsistent peel color of 'Fuji' apple strains has limited the apple's marketability. The authors of a new study say that the introduction of new 'Fuji' strains could increase the apple's popularity and drive up consumer approval.

Esmaeil Fallahi, Bahar Fallahi, and Bahman Shafii from the University of Idaho and Zabihollah Zamani from the University of Tehran published the results of their 6-year study in HortScience. The team studied the long-term effects of five 'Fuji' strains ('Autumn Rose', 'Desert Rose', 'Myra', 'September Wonder', and 'Top Export' on RN 29 rootstock) on fruit yield and harvest time quality.

"This experiment was designed to determine differences among 'Fuji' strains in southwestern Idaho, which has similar climate conditions as those of the Intermountain West region of the United States and many other regions worldwide," explained author Esmaeil Fallahi, Director of Pomology at the University of Idaho, according to the May 19, 2014 news release, "Several new apple varieties recommended for growers."

The researchers found that fruit of 'September Wonder Fuji' trees were larger than those of other strains in 5 of the 6 years that the experiments took place. 'September Wonder' fruit was less firm than the other strains, but showed a higher starch degradation pattern every year, traits the researchers attributed to the strain's earlier maturity. "Considering all yield and quality attributes at harvest, 'September Wonder' was a great choice for an early maturing apple strain," Fallahi said, according to the news release.

Outcomes also showed wide variations in apple peel color among those strains categorized as both 'low-coloring' and 'high-coloring'

For example, the scientists determined that the fruits of 'Autumn Rose', 'Myra', and 'Top Export' always had less red color, while 'September Wonder' and 'Desert Rose' had more red color. The authors deemed 'Desert Rose' a good choice for a late-maturing 'Fuji' strain based on the apple's excellent color, great storability, and shape.

"'Myra' was particularly desirable for its attractive pink color, resembling bagged 'Fuji' without the expensive cost of labor associated with bagging," Fallahi said, according to the news release. The authors recommend against planting 'Autumn Rose' because the strain produces muddy colored fruit under growing conditions like those in the study.

High intake of white fruits and vegetables may protect against stroke, say recent studies, for example: Apples and pears

An apple or pear a day may keep strokes away, says a study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association in which researchers found that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables with white flesh may protect against stroke, the news release, "An apple or pear a day may keep strokes away" reported.

In Sacramento and other Northern California locations, stroke rates among young blacks in the Kaiser Permanente study more than doubled between 2000 and 2008, according to Dr. Sidney. The researchers conducted studies to identify underlying reasons for this trend, according to the news release, "NIH awards $40 million in grants to reduce stroke disparities in the US."

Strokes in young people on the increase

Now, a new analysis published in The Lancet finds a startling 25% increase in the number of stroke cases among people aged 20 to 64 years during the last 20 years. Findings come from the first comprehensive and comparable analysis of the regional and country-specific burden of stroke between 1990 and 2010.

A second study published in The Lancet Global Health shows that in 2010, three-fifths (61.5%) of the disability and more than half (51.7%) of the lives lost to stroke were the result of haemorrhagic strokes despite being half as common as ischaemic strokes. Can a diet that includes more white fruits and vegetables and citrus fruits help reduce this burgeoning phenomena?

According to that Huffington Post, Healthy Living (section) news article, stroke is increasing in young people. In a new report in The Lancet, the results of a new study shows an increasing number of young and middle-aged adults are being affected by it.

Researchers from around the world examined new cases of stroke, its overall prevalence, and deaths from stroke from 1990 to 2012 (looking specifically at time points of 1990, 2005 and 2010). They found that strokes have increased 25 percent globally in the past 20 years in people ages 20 to 64. Currently, 20-to-64-year-olds make up 31 percent of all strokes. Before 1990, they made up just 25 percent.

Apples and pears studied for health benefits and possibly reducing risk of stroke

You can read the original study's abstract on apples and pears, "Clinical Sciences: Colors of Fruit and Vegetables and 10-Year Incidence of Stroke." A 2011 study of white fruits and vegetables, such as apples and pears, or cucumbers and cauliflower, showed that these white-fleshed fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of stroke.

While studies have linked high consumption of fruits and vegetables with lower stroke risk, the researchers' prospective work in 2011 had been the first to examine associations of fruits and vegetable color groups with stroke. The color of the edible portion of fruits and vegetables reflects the presence of beneficial phytochemicals such as carotenoids and flavonoids.

Researchers examined the link between fruits and vegetable color group consumption with 10-year stroke incidence in a population-based study of 20,069 adults, with an average age of 41

The participants were free of cardiovascular diseases at the start of the study and completed a 178-item food frequency questionnaire for the previous year. Almost every month, the news is filled with the results of studies about the health benefits of apples.

In the Netherlands, one study says that a high intake of fruits that are white inside—including apples and pears—reduced the risk of stroke by 50%. What the investigators found is that for each 25 gram per day increase in white fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with a 9 percent decrease in stroke risk, according to Dr. Stephen Sinatra's article on a new study, "Stroke Risk Factors—Why Younger People Are Having Strokes."

And regarding the 2011 study, because this initial research is still so new, the researchers caution against jumping to big conclusions. Nonetheless, these early findings published in the September 2011 online release of the journal Stroke are encouraging. Also check out the October 24, 2013 news article, "More Young Adults Being Affected By Stroke, Report Finds."

From a nutrition aspect, apples and pears and other white fruits and vegetables confer a number of health benefits, and fall is an excellent time to add them to your diet

White potatoes are a starch, for example, but cauliflower and cucumbers are considered white vegetables, among several other vegetables that have white flesh but are not considered a starch vegetable, and white fruit such as pears and apples were included in the study.

Try organic so you don't get the herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides. The most contaminated by pesticides of fruits and berries are strawberries. So stick to organic varieties. Also the most heavily sprayed fruits with pesticides are peaches, and apples. So you want to look for organic peaches and apples or pears. Also see the sites, "Stroke risk factors" or "Intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis."

Fruits and vegetables were classified in four color groups:

  • Green, including dark leafy vegetables, cabbages and lettuces
  • Orange/Yellow, which were mostly citrus fruits
  • Red/Purple, which were mostly red vegetables
  • White, of which 55 percent were apples and pears

During 10 years of follow-up, 233 strokes were documented. Green, orange/yellow and red/purple fruits and vegetables weren't related to stroke. However, the risk of stroke incidence was 52 percent lower for people with a high intake of white fruits and vegetables compared to people with a low intake.

Each 25 gram per day increase in white fruits and vegetable consumption was associated with a 9 percent lower risk of stroke. An average apple is 120 grams

"To prevent stroke, it may be useful to consume considerable amounts of white fruits and vegetables," said Linda M. Oude Griep, M.Sc., according to the September 15, 2011 news release, "An apple or pear a day may keep strokes away." Gripe is the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in human nutrition at Wageningen Uninversity in the Netherlands. "For example, eating one apple a day is an easy way to increase white fruits and vegetable intake. "However, other fruits and vegetable color groups may protect against other chronic diseases. Therefore, it remains of importance to consume a lot of fruits and vegetables."

Apples and pears are high in dietary fiber and a flavonoid called quercetin. In the study, other foods in the white category were bananas, cauliflower, chicory and cucumber

Potatoes were classified as a starch. Previous research on the preventive health benefits of fruits and vegetables focused on the food's unique nutritional value and characteristics, such as the edible part of the plant, color, botanical family and its ability to provide antioxidants.

U.S. federal dietary guidelines include using color to assign nutritional value. The U.S. Preventive Health Services Taskforce recommends selecting each day vegetables from five subgroups: dark green, red/orange, legume, starchy and other vegetables.

Before the results are adopted into everyday practice, the findings should be confirmed through additional research, Oude Griep said in the news release, An apple or pear a day may keep strokes away. "It may be too early for physicians to advise patients to change their dietary habits based on these initial findings," she stated in the news release.

An accompanying editorial notes that the finding should be interpreted with caution because food frequency questionnaires may not be reliable. In addition, "the observed reduction in stroke risk might further be due to a generally healthier lifestyle of individuals consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables," writes Heike Wersching, M.D., M.Sc., of Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine at the University of Münster, in Germany.

Study co-authors are: W.M. Monique Verschuren, Ph.D.; Daan Kromhout, M.P.H., Ph.D.; Marga C. Ocké, Ph.D.; and Johanna M. Geleijnse, Ph.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at the American Heart Association's corporate funding website. Also in another study, citrus fruits also helped prevent stroke, according to the news release, "Eating citrus fruit may lower women's stroke risk."

Additional resources:

  • The American Heart Association recommends eating a diet rich in a variety of colors and types of vegetables and fruits, at least 4.5 cups a day. To learn more visit: Eat More Fruits and Vegetables and Tips to boost fruits and vegetables to your diet
  • Cooking with white fruits and vegetables can be easy – and healthy. Check out these recipes at the American Heart Association's Nutrition Center:
    • Cool Cucumber Dip
    • Modern Tuna Pasta Casserole (add extra cauliflower)
    • Pear and Cherry Crumble
  • Downloadable stock footage, animation, and an image gallery are located at the Heart News site under Multimedia.
  • For more information on stroke, visit the American Stroke Association website.
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