Dried plums may help prevent bone loss in astronauts

February 24, 2016

An animal study published in Scientific Reports suggests that dried plums may help to prevent bone loss in those exposed to radiation, such as astronauts in space. This research is timely as a year-long space mission to help scientists better understand the effects of space on the human body is about to conclude in March. Additionally, radiation workers and those who receive radiation therapy as part of a treatment for cancer are also subject to possible bone loss from exposure to radiation.

The researchers looked at the effect of various antioxidant or anti-inflammatory interventions—including an antioxidant cocktail, dihydrolipoic acid (antioxidant), ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory), dried plum powder (antioxidant), and a control—on mice that received radiation. They observed that the dried plum powder was the most effective in reducing undesired bone marrow cells’ responses to radiation compared to the other interventions. Additionally, the researchers observed that mice on the dried plum diet did not exhibit decrements (bone volume loss) after exposure to radiation in any of the structural parameters measured. The results of this study suggest that dried plums may serve as an effective intervention for bone loss due to unavoidable exposure to space radiation or radiation therapy.

“Preserving bone strength during space travel is a serious issue faced by astronauts,” said study author Bernard Halloran, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “Radiation-induced bone loss resembles the age-related structural changes of osteoporosis. But health concerns remain with current remedies, such as secondary effects from drug treatments. This preliminary research provides promising hope that something as easy as eating dried plums may be able to counter the negative aspects of space travel on bone health.”