TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Could a handful of nutrient-rich dried plums each day help keep the doctor away by actually reversing bone loss in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis or osteoarthritis? A unique clinical study under way in the Florida State University College of Human Sciences means to find out.
FSU Professor Bahram H. Arjmandi is the principal investigator and a nationally recognized expert on the effects of "functional foods" (dietary components that may provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition) on chronic diseases. His previous studies found that dried plums -- better known as prunes -- restored lost bone in animal models of osteoporosis, and improved biomarkers linked to bone formation in postmenopausal women.
Expanding the range of effective treatment options for osteoporosis is critical: 10 million Americans already have the silent but debilitating disease; another 34 million are at risk. Postmenopausal women are particularly susceptible to fractures due to osteoporotic bone loss -- and up to 20 percent of that loss can occur within just five to seven years after menopause.
Why prunes? "While drug therapies are available for the treatment of osteoporosis, they can be prohibitively expensive and are not without side effects; hence long-term adherence to these therapies is low," Arjmandi said. "Furthermore, many women prefer to modify their lifestyle and dietary practices in order to prevent fracture due to osteoporosis."
Chair of FSU's nutrition, food and exercise sciences department since joining the faculty last summer, Arjmandi has spearheaded the current research with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And in a highly unusual twist, no one in this sweet study gets a placebo. "Our FSU research is unique in that all participants, women between two and 10 years postmenopausal, can hope to potentially benefit in some manner," Arjmandi said.