Study shows dried plums aid in colon cancer prevention

Dried plums — the fruit formerly known as prunes — aren’t just your grandmother’s go-to snack anymore.

As Texas A&M University professor Nancy Turner explained, there may be some good news for fans of the fruit. Turner was among a team of researchers who found in a recent study that the inclusion of dried plums in a balanced diet helped prevent colon cancer.

The positive effect, Turner said, is being attributed to the plum’s ability to promote the health of microbiota in the colon. Although the study was conducted on rats, Turner explained that this particular research model has done a “good job of replicating a lot of the changes that occur in the human intestine as colon cancer develops.”

For those wondering how long prunes have been called dried plums, it has actually been longer than most might think.

Don Zea, executive director of the California Dried Plum Board said in 2001 prunes were officially renamed dried plums with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an attempt to give the fruit a broader appeal to consumers. Zea said prunes had become so connected with digestive health, it was “too successful.”

“I think all of us have that image from when we were a kid, we were usually given either the prune juice or the dried prunes because we weren’t feeling well,” Turner said. “It was almost like a punishment.”

While she acknowledged that many have a negative perception of the dried fruit’s taste, Turner said that, in her experience, adults and older children who give them another chance generally end up surprised at “how good they actually are.”

“It’s just a dried fruit, just like a dried apricot or banana,” Turner said. “If you think of it from that perspective and just give it a chance, there is probably a good likelihood that you would find that you actually enjoy the flavor of the dried plums.”

The name change, Zea added, also had the added benefit that dried plums “describe more literally what it actually is” than the name prunes.

The actual benefits delivered by the dried fruit are a combination of few factors, Turner said. She explained that while the dietary fiber of the plums is a vital factor in maintaining good digestive health, it is a combination of the fiber and other compounds inherent in the fruit that work in tandem to provide the benefits.

“We constantly tell people that they need to eat more dietary fiber, but it isn’t just the math of dietary fiber that you’re getting,” Turner said. “It’s about the things that come along with the dietary fiber in the food that you’re eating.”

Turner said that it is these additional compounds and dietary fibers — found in many fruits, vegetables and whole grains — that “seem to be better at providing a beneficial microbial population and ability to suppress the disease.”

The research was conducted in partnership between Texas A&M and the University of North Carolina, with funding from the California Dried Plum Board.



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