Dried fruit, particularly dried plums may promote bone. Research conducted with dried plums indicates that they have a role in supporting bone health. This may be because they are rich in phenolic compounds, such as phenolic acids and lignans, which may stimulate bone formation and enhance osteoblast activity. Animal studies have shown that dried plums protect, and even reverse, bone loss in models of osteopemia (low bone mineral density, a precursor to osteoporosis). For example, feeding dried plums reduced loss of bone in ovariectomized rats in a dose dependant fashion. It also increased circulating insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). Serum IGF-1 is known to stimulate bone formation, osteoblast activity, and collagen synthesis and has a role in bone remodeling. A follow-up study showed that dried plums restored loss of tibial and femoral density in an osteopenic rat model of osteoporosis. Various doses of dried plums were also able to significantly improve trabecular bone structure and increase tibial bone volume and connectivity. These observations are unique because it is believed that once bone volume and connectivity are lost they cannot be brought back to normal. In studies where bone loss was produced by skeletal unloading, a diet containing dried plums also enhanced bone recovery by increasing bone mineral density and trabecular bone structure.
The effect was similar to parathyroid hormone treatment.
In vitro studies have shown that dried plum polyphenols suppress osteoclast differentiation and activity under normal, oxidative stress and inflammatory conditions. These studies also show that dried plum enhances osteoblast ALP activity, calcified nodule formation and type I collagen cross-linking. These changes may be mediated by up regulating transcription and growth factors. In addition to animal studies, the findings of a short-term (3 month) clinical trial showed that the consumption of dried plums (100 grams per day) by postmenopausal women significantly increased markers of bone formation including serum total alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, bone-specific ALP activity and IGF-1. Currently, a 1-year comparative control randomized study is being conducted to confirm these findings and to determine whether dried plum increases bone mass or prevents further bone loss in osteopemic postmenopausal women. While the mechanism of action of dried plums remains to be elucidated, researchers believe that phenolic compounds may be the major bone protective agents. However, essential nutrients like vitamin K and minerals like potassium and the trace element boron may contribute to their beneficial effect. Dried plums are also high in copper, which is essential for bone building processes as it is a co-factor of lysyl oxidase. This enzyme promotes cross-linking of lysine residues in collagen and elastin.
Dried fruits promote digestive health. There is considerable research supporting the role of dried fruit in regulating bowel function and maintaining a healthy digestive system. Dried plums are well known in common experience to alleviate constipation. Some researchers ascribe it to their high fiber content: the combination of soluble (49%) and insoluble fiber (51%) in dried plums probably acts in a gentle way in the lower intestines, softening stool increasing bulk and promoting intestinal motility. More recent research indicates that they also provide prebiotic compounds such as fructans, which help to maintain intestinal balance and colonic health.
Dried fruits may contribute to healthy body weights. Emerging data suggests that dried fruit intake is not associated with higher body weight. On the contrary, recent analysis of NHANES (1999–2004) data indicates that diets high in dried fruits are associated with lower Body Mass Index (BMI), reduced overweight and obesity and improved diet quality. Moreover, after adjusting for potential cofounders (socioeconomic status, education, exercise), these data show that prevalence of overweight/obesity and prevalence of abdominal obesity are lower for those who consume dried fruits than for those who did not. Finally, emerging data suggest that dried fruit promotes satiety by affecting the levels of hormones such as leptin that regulate appetite.
Dried fruits meet dietary guidelines for daily fruit servings and address barriers to fruit intake. The greatest benefit of including dried fruits regularly in the diet is that it is a means to expand overall consumption of fruit and the critical nutrients they contain. Dried fruits have the advantage of being very easy to store and distribute, they are readily incorporated into other foods and recipes, relatively low cost and present a healthy alternative to sugary snacks. The scientific basis for the recommendations to increase fruit consumption in the diet by health authorities is the epidemiological evidence that individuals who regularly eat generous amounts of these foods have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, several cancers, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Dried fruits, with their unique combination of essential nutrients, fiber and bioactive compounds are a convenient step toward healthier eating and a means to bridge the gap between recommended intake of fruits and the amount Americans actually consume.
Source and References http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dried_fruit