Could prunes do more for our bodies than support gut health? The latest research seems to think so.

Read up on all the latest nutritional studies here in this week’s Nutrition News.

Prunes for bone health

Prunes are well known for their benefits in digestive and gut health but a recent study has suggested they may also benefit bone health.

The research from Penn State, as published by Science Daily, suggests that the benefits could be particularly prevalent for ageing women. The lower levels of oestrogen in post-menopausal women can trigger an increase in oxidative stress and inflammation, which increases fracture risk due to the weakening of bones. The research evaluated this and whether the bioactive compounds, such as phenolic acid, flavonoids and carotenoids, in prunes could counteract these effects.

The hypothesis was also borne out of the dietary fibre, vitamin K and mineral content of prunes, all of which could support the body and act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.

The researchers analysed the findings from 26 preclinical studies and two clinical trials and found that eating prunes contributed to reduced oxidative stress and inflammation whilst improving bone health. The clinical trials showed that eating about 10 prunes per day for a year improved bone mineral density of bones in the forearm and lower spine and decreased signs of bone turnover.

Further trials are now planned off the back of this research to confirm the findings.

Heart health during pregnancy

Recent research has illustrated that as few as 40% of new mothers in the United States who gave birth in 2019 had good heart health before their pregnancy. This statistic is of particular concern as cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of pregnancy-related death in America.

The research was reported by Healthline in this article and reiterates the importance of maintaining good overall health prior to becoming pregnant as well as during pregnancy and after birth. Too many women only realise the extent of their health problems when they become pregnant and start having regular health check ups.

While prevention is always best and it is recommended to manage your heart health before becoming pregnant, if you find that you have preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or hypertension during pregnancy, starting a healthy diet and regular exercise can help put you back on track to a healthy pregnancy and life after pregnancy. The research suggests that better cardiovascular health during early pregnancy is associated with better cardiovascular health 10 years following pregnancy.

While following a good diet and exercising won’t solve all cardiovascular issues, it certainly reduces the risk of developing problems in the first place and helps protect both the mother and baby.

Probiotics could help students’ stress levels

A new study from Belgium has suggested that probiotics could offer stress support to university students. The study was reported by NutraIngredients and involved 92 participants both male and female between the ages of 20 and 30. Half of the group were assigned a placebo whilst the other half consumed a non-commercialised fermented dairy product containing the probiotic L.rhamosus. Two 100ml bottles of either the placebo or probiotic were consumed twice a day for four weeks.

After the four week period, the students were asked to defend their thesis to a public forum to act as a stress event. The researchers noted that, although salivary cortisol levels increased across both groups, the increases in scores on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) were significantly lower in the probiotic group when compared to the placebo.

The study suggests that probiotics may have an effect on subjective stress, although objective stress, which was measured by cortisol levels was unaffected.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.