A recent study on rats has uncovered a new possibility for osteoporosis prevention — dried plums. Osteoporosis is a disease that usually occurs as we age and our bones weaken, which leads to more frequent and more serious fractures.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 55% of Americans over the age of 50 are at risk for the condition. That’s more than half — and it translates into 44 million people who should be concerned with their bone health.
Even though the greater group affected by osteoporosis would be women (80%), the study we’re discussing concentrated on men who have the condition. As men get older, their testosterone (a hormone found to be key in maintaining bone density and strength in both males and females) levels drop by a percentage point every year. This leads to weaker muscles and bones, thus putting males at greater risk for osteoporosis.
The study, out of Oklahoma, involved 60 male rats. The rodents were divided into five groups: one control group, and four groups that had their testes removed to simulate the decrease of testosterone in older men. After the operation, these rats were split into four groups, each receiving a different diet (control diet, or control diet supplemented with five percent, 15%, or 25% dried plums) for a period of 90 days.
When the study was up, the researchers discovered that bone mineral density (BMD) decrease was prevented in the rats that were fed the medium (15%) and high (25%) doses of dried plum. The low dose (five percent) of dried plum also provided some protection against BMD loss in a specific area (the thigh bone). Therefore, medium and high doses of dried plum have the potential to prevent bone loss and thus the resulting fractures. Moreover, low doses could be just as effective if given over a longer period of time.
The researchers point out the need for further studies to be conducted on the subject, especially to discover what component of dried plums works against osteoporosis and exactly how it does this. Until then, you probably won’t be seeing dried plum supplements on your pharmacy shelves any time soon.
Are you at risk for this bone disease? It can be hard to tell if you’re already developing osteoporosis, as bone loss is pretty much undetectable until one of your bones break, often due to a seemingly minor incident, such as falling in the shower. In some people, the condition can be seen in loss of height or the development of a hump or slouch.
You should know that osteoporosis is extremely common: in people over the age of 50, one in two women and one in four men will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture. You might be more prone to this disease if you:
— Have a family history of osteoporosis. — Are thin or petite. — Have prolonged low calcium intake or vitamin D deficiency. — Are using certain drugs, such as corticosteroids or anticonvulsants, or are undergoing chemotherapy. — Have hormone deficiencies (estrogen or testosterone). — Smoke or drink alcohol excessively. — Lead a sedentary life.
There are more risk factors that can lead to osteoporosis; talk to your doctor to get the full story.