Previous research has shown that prune consumption stimulates beneficial changes in the gut flora and protects bone health. These effects have mostly been attributed to the polyphenolic compounds in plums, although the specific mechanisms and contribution of other important nutrients such as carbohydrates are not clear.
A study has now provided evidence that prunes are a prebiotic food and that bone loss was reversed in mice that consumed prunes. The researchers found that polyphenols and carbohydrates in prunes act like prebiotics and help restore bone health.
Both the polyphenols and the carbohydrate component in the plums altered the gut flora and were associated with positive effects on bone health, particularly bone repair. Prebiotics are by definition substrates that alter the activity or composition of the microbiota and benefit the health of the person. In this case, the benefit conferred was recovery from bone loss.
For the study, the carbohydrates, as well as the polyphenolic compounds, were isolated from plums and fed to 2 separate groups of estrogen-deficient female mice with significant bone loss over a period of 5 and 10 weeks. For comparison, 3 other groups were given diets containing either whole plums, a crude plum extract containing both carbohydrate and polyphenol plum components, or a diet containing no plums or plum components, which was the control group. Macronutrients were equal in all diets.
Compared to the mice that did not consume prunes or components of prunes, those who consumed whole prunes, crude extract, isolated polyphenol, or isolated carbohydrates experienced restored bone that had previously been lost. These mice also showed increased production of short-chain fatty acids in their guts, as well as beneficial changes in the gut microbiota.
In particular, the short-chain fatty acids n-butyrate and propionate were observed, which are considered most effective for the prevention of bone loss through the suppression of biomarkers related to bone breakdown. These observations indicate that prunes and components of prunes can affect the gut in ways that help improve immune system processes, mineral absorption and the integrity of the gut barrier, all of which can affect immune cells, metabolites and hormones that play a role. in bone health.
It was also observed that the carbohydrates were able to repair bone on their own early in the study, while the polyphenol effects on bone became noticeable and more significant later on.
While they both have prebiotic activity, several mechanisms are likely involved in the genesis of these prebiotics, according to the researchers. They say the results suggest that whole plums are consumed for the short-term benefits of the carbohydrates and the long-term polyphenols.
They also mentioned that the minerals, vitamins and plant compounds in prunes could also contribute to its gut and bone benefits.
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