California prune farmer Matt Bozzo
California prune grower Matt Bozzo farms near Yuba City.

Board promotes prunes as high-fiber snack in UK

Research funded by the California Dried Plum Board suggests that prunes could be a healthy way for United Kingdom consumers to improve their fiber intake

UK consumers are failing to meet the recommended level of fiber intake – which is so important for gut health - in their diet. But a new UK research study funded by the California Dried Plum Board suggests that prunes could be a convenient solution to helping the nation address this issue.

The study, undertaken by researchers at King’s College London – a renowned center of excellence for nutrition and digestive health – adds weight to the existing authorized health claim for prunes by showing that eating just 80 grams daily – not the previously believed 100 grams as per the current EU claim – of prunes achieves the same desired effect.

Scientists at King’s College London based their research on a group of healthy adults with low fiber intakes and infrequent bowel movements and found that the daily addition of just 80 g of prunes in the diet can dramatically increase fiber intake by 29%, resulting in significantly improved bowel function. Current UK intakes of fiber are approximately 18g / day which is in sharp contrast to the recommended 30g / day. Increasing fiber intake is the recommended route to reducing the risk of diseases such as colorectal cancer, hemorrhoids and constipation.

120 healthy adults were randomly assigned to one of three groups for 4 weeks whilst consuming their regular diet and maintaining normal activity levels: 300 ml water only (the control group); 80 g prunes and 300 ml water; or 120 g prunes and 300 ml water. There was no change in body weight over the four week study in any of the three groups.  Once again, this research dismisses the myth that adding prunes to the diet causes weight increase, reinforcing the results of a previous trial by the University of Liverpool.

The researchers also measured changes in the gut microbiota and found that levels of healthy gut bugs called Bifidobacteria significantly increased throughout the study following the prune diet. An additional benefit of eating prunes therefore appears to be a rise in the levels of ‘good’ health-enhancing bacteria in the gut.

Commenting on the findings, Esther Ritson-Elliott, European Marketing Director for the California Dried Plum Board says, “The California Dried Plum Board, representing the world’s premium quality prunes, has a long history of investing in cutting edge research to underpin the exceptional health and nutritional credentials of California prunes. This study is not simply a repeat of previous similar scientific investigations, but instead represents a brand-new UK research initiative that patently reinforces and adds significant weight to the existing EU health claim. In fact, we may now consider applying for the EU health claim to be adapted in line with these latest findings. Although there are daily sensationalized reports claiming new ‘gut health’ breakthroughs, this published research has used robust, objective outcome measures to confirm the long-held view that eating a diet rich in California prunes offers clear and tangible benefits in terms of improving normal bowel function.”

The research could also be relevant to helping to address the UK’s mounting laxative bill – according to NHS England, the spend on laxatives has increased by 61.2% over the last 10 years. Eating more fiber rich foods such as prunes could potentially reduce the need for such interventions!

Source: California Dried Plum Board

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