Prune Juice FAQs

By
Queens Hospital
Published August 9th, 2011  |  Last updated June 17th, 2014

“How much prune juice should I drink?” is a frequently asked question on the totalhealth contact form.  In addition to the article by Dr Premchand here is a useful summary of some relevant studies into the health benefits of prunes that have been published in the medical literature.

Contents

What are prunes and prune juice?

Plums and prunes

Prunes come from plums, which have been cultivated and propagated possibly for thousands of years. They are the partially dried fruit of any one of the various varieties of plum cultivars. The plums are dehydrated in hot air at 85 to 90 degrees Celsius for 18 hours, and they can then be further processed into prune juice, puree, or other prune products. If there was ever a ‘king (or queen) of health foods’ it would appear that the humble prune would wear the crown as they are highly nutritious and provide considerable health benefits.However, although our knowledge is growing, little is really understood of how their range of nutrients and natural plant chemicals (phytochemicals) actually work at the biological level.

What is constipation?

Constipation is a digestive disorder that affects the bowels either by reducing the frequencyApplied to urination, needing to urinate more often than normal, for whatever reason. of bowel openings or difficulty is the passage of motions. It can cause bloating, abdominalRelating to the abdomen, which is the region of the body between the chest and the pelvis. pain and hard stools.

How does prune juice improve digestive health and deal with mild digestive problems?

Anecdotal evidence that plums, prunes and prune juice can encourage the digestive system to work goes back hundreds of years, but recent clinical and chemical studies suggest that it is the combination of fibre and the presence of sorbitol. Sorbitol is similar to glucoseA simple sugar that is an important source of energy in the body., but unlike glucose, it is very slowly absorbed into the bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid.. As a consequence of this slow absorption as it passes through the gut, the sorbitol tends to hold onto some water. This then increases the moisture content of the stools which leads to easier passage from the body.

Should I consult my doctor before regularly drinking prune juice?

If you are receiving medication for a condition relating to you digestion or under regular medical care for a pre-existing condition and you have a digestive health issue then do mention it to your GP, consultant or nurse.

How much prune juice should I drink if I have mild digestive problems like constipation?

The recommended daily amount is 120ml, but if you have digestive health issues you may want to drink more or less than this. In most situations self- adjusting the intake is appropriate although you may also ask your doctor or health professional if you are under their care.

How much fibre do prunes contain?

According to a study carried out by Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis et al from the Department of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Illinois at Chicago, which summarised the current knowledge of the chemical composition of prunes and their biological effects on human health, although prune juice contains no fibre (as it is a filtered product), the laxative action of both prune and prune juice could be explained by their high sorbitol content (14.7 and 6.1 g/100 g, respectively). Sorbitol is a bulk sweetener that occurs naturally in a wide variety of fruits and berries.

What else do prunes contain?

Dried prunes contain approximately 6.1g of dietary fibre per 100g, although prune juice is devoid of fibre as it is filtered before bottling. 

Prunes are good source of energy in the form of simple sugars, but they do not give rise to a rapid rise in blood sugar concentration, possibly due to their high fibre, fructose, and sorbitol content. 

Prunes contain large amounts of unique phytonutrients (essential nutrients that come from plants) called neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids. These substances are classified as phenols, which are chemicals found in nearly all food types and are antioxidants.  Oxidation is the interaction between oxygen molecules and any other substance, including living tissueA group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function.. It is constantly occurring in the cells of our body but oxidation reactions can also cause damage because at a molecular level they can give rise to “free radicals”, which are atomsThe smallest units of an element. or groups of atoms with an odd number of electrons, which can cause damage to cells that in turn can lead to chronicA disease of long duration generally involving slow changes. illness such as heart disease and cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. The body therefore naturally produces anti-oxidants that neutralise “sweep up” these free radicals to prevent cells from becoming damaged but often not in sufficient quantities. The phenolic compounds in prunes had been found to inhibit human oxidation in vitro, and therefore may serve as preventive agents against chronic disease. 

Prunes are also a good source of potassiumAn element that is one of the main ions, or charged atoms, of intracellular fluid, and is also important in nerve and muscle function. (745 mg/100 g), which might be beneficial for cardiovascular health, ironAn element present in haemoglobin in the red cells., and boron, which may play a role in the prevention of osteoporosisA condition resulting in brittle bones due to loss of bony tissue.. A serving of prunes (100 g) fulfils the daily requirement for boron (2 to 3 mg). Prunes also provide vitaminEssential substances that cannot be produced by the body and so must be acquired from the diet. A in the form of beta-caroteneA type of vitamin. It gives yellow and orange fruit and vegetables their colour.. Research is on-going to assess the levels of carotenoids and other phytochemicals present in prunes.

Is there evidence that prunes promote bone health?

There has long been a search for a non-pharmacological alternative for treating osteoporosis. This form of bone degeneration is a highly debilitating disorder. Aside from existing drug therapies, certain lifestyle and nutritional factors are known to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Among nutritional factors, recent observations suggest that prunes are the most effective fruit in both preventing and reversing bone loss. 

According to the evidence-based studies (which are still fairly early), prunes have positive effects on bone indices. The data would indicate that dried plum may not only protect against bone degeneration, but also reverse bone loss.  In addition to the animal studies, a 3-month clinical trial indicated that the consumption of prunes daily by postmenopausal women significantly increased serumThe clear fluid that separates from blood when it clots. It contains salts, glucose and proteins. markers of bone formation. 

How long does it take for prune juice to work?

Prune juice with plums

Increments in prune juice intake need to be very slow and carefully monitored until the desired effect is achieved. Sudden increases can often lead to unpleasant side effects like pain, cramping, gas and diarrhoeaWhen bowel evacuation happens more often than usual, or where the faeces are abnormally liquid.. Have patience as it takes a few days sometimes a few weeks for a very lazy bowel to adapt and relearn its function with respect to fibre.

What does prune juice taste like?

Prune juice has a fruity sweet taste, often with hints of caramel.

If my digestive health is okay should/can I still drink prune juice; how much should I drink and how often?

Drinking a 120ml glass of prune juice every day for adults combined with drinking plenty of water every day (two litres every day including fruit juice, fruit or herbal teas) and regular exercise are all recommended as part of healthy life style.

Is it possible to drink too much prune juice?

The recommended guideline of 120ml per day is a rough guideline and can be adjusted according to effectiveness. If too much prune juice is being drunk the laxative effect may be too strong and could result in stomachthe organ or the body where food is stored and broken down cramps and loose motions.

Where can I get advice on planning a healthy diet and exercise?

Your GP and online sources such as Five A Day and Sunsweet.

You can download a full colour copy of this article for your own information or to show your GP. For further information please see Digestive Health and Prune Juice - The Natural Way.

For further information on the author of this article, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Dr Purushothaman Premchand, please click here.

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