The tasty fruit astronauts depend on to protect their bones

Volume 13    |   Issue 15

While bone loss is something all of us need to be aware of as we age, it’s a particularly significant issue for people who are exposed to radiation. Excess radiation can cause oxidative damage in skeletal tissues and keep your bones from rebuilding themselves properly. Fortunately, there’s a tasty food that can protect you against the bone-ravaging effects of radiation.

The average person might be exposed to radiation from cancer treatment or as a radiation worker. However, a group of researchers wanted to find out how to protect the bones of a specialized group of people that endures high levels of radiation: astronauts. In fact, NASA’s Ames Research Center has a Bone and Signaling Laboratory that’s heavily involved in addressing these issues.

To conduct this study, the researchers at this lab partnered with the department of radiation oncology at the University of California-Irvine and the division of endocrinology at the University of California-San Francisco. They wanted to find options to protect the bones of people exposed to ionizing radiation. They had a lot of ideas about how to prevent bone damage and oxidative stress, including an antioxidant cocktail, dihydrolipoic acid, and ibuprofen. But the intervention they found that worked the best was actually something that you can find in the snack aisle.

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The researchers tested their different ideas on mice that they exposed to ionizing radiation. This radiation causes rapid bone loss in rodents. Those that had the best outcomes were those who snacked on dried plums, or prunes, prior to experiencing the radiation.

I know prunes aren’t glamorous. But they’re full of biologically active components that can protect your bones, including polyphenols. And you probably already know how great polyphenols are for you. If you’re regularly exposed to radiation because of your job or because you’re undergoing radiation treatment, regularly snacking on dried plums could help you avoid developing osteoporosis. That gives you one less thing to worry about if you’re already battling a different disease.

When you eat dried fruit, be sure to look for brands without added sugar. Fruit is sweet enough on its own, and you should be avoiding added sugar whenever possible. Many people find if they lightly stew the prunes, they feel they’re easier to digest. Prunes may not be a trendy snack, but they are certainly beneficial.

Better Health and Living for Women,


A.-S. Schreurs, Y. Shirazi-Fard, M. Shahnazari, J. S. Alwood, T. A. Truong, C. G. T. Tahimic, C. L. Limoli, N. D. Turner, B. Halloran, R. K. Globus. Dried plum diet protects from bone loss caused by ionizing radiation. Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 21343 DOI: 10.1038/srep21343.

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