When I saw there was a paper entitled "Daily Dried Apples Versus Daily Dried Plums: Impact on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Postmenopausal Women," the first thing I thought was well, was the study funded by the U.S. Apple Association or the International Prune Association? Turns out neither. Just our taxpayer dollars hard at work. Great! So what did they find?
One hundred and sixty older women were randomly assigned to a dried apple group or a dried plum group and followed for a year. A dozen dried apple rings a day or about 8 prunes. As you can see in my 3-min video Dried Apples, Dates, Figs or Prunes for Cholesterol?, within 3 months the apple group experienced a significant drop in cholesterol that stayed down throughout the rest of the study, but no cholesterol benefit in the prune group. Both dried fruit regimens lowered c-reactive protein levels about the same, though dried plums may cause a quicker decrease in inflammation, whereas dried apples may result in a greater decrease overall.
Prunes may not help our cholesterol, but they may improve the health of our skin--see Beauty Is More Than Skin Deep. That's of course in addition to their customary regularity role, something I address in Prunes vs. Metamucil vs. Vegan Diet.
Twelve apple rings is equivalent to eating about 2 apples a day. They think that the cholesterol-lowering properties of apples may be due to their unique pectin fiber composition, which may increase fecal excretion of bile. Or there may be cholesterol-lowering phytonutrients unique to the apples. Either way, this supports the extraordinary findings detailed in my previous video Dried Apples Versus Cholesterol.
What about dried figs? The California Fig Board did not want to be left out. They put people on 14 figs a day (that's a lot of figs!) for 5 weeks and... nothing. Daily consumption of figs did not appear to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol.
Finally, what about dates? Another recent study tested 4 or 5 dates a day for a month and again nothing. The dates did tend to bring down triglyceride levels, though, which is surprising given their sugar content. Studies of the glycemic index of dates found them to have a surprisingly mild effect on blood sugar levels. In Dried Apples, Dates, Figs or Prunes for Cholesterol? I show graphs comparing the blood sugar effects of straight sugar water versus that same amount of sugar, but in date form. More on the sugar content of dates in Are Dates Good For You?, a recipe in Healthy Pumpkin Pie, and my favorite source for dates here.
Dates beat out other common fruits in terms of containing more vitamins and minerals. They've even been touted as the "richest source of dietary minerals," but because they're dried they have about 5 times more calories than fresh fruits. Thus, in terms of nutrient density, they're really quite comparable to other fruits. Apples, however, clearly have others beat when it comes to lowering cholesterol.
More on dried fruit can be found in:
- Amla Versus Diabetes
- Better Than Goji Berries
- To Snack or Not to Snack?
- Do Fruit & Nut Bars Cause Weight Gain?
- Raisins vs. Jelly Beans for Athletic Performance
Those with asthma may want to choose dried fruits without the preservative sulfur dioxide.
-Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: storebukkebruse / Flickr