SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 25) BUSINESS WIRE -Feb. 25, 1999--Prunes, a good source of fiber, have long been recognized as a nutrient-rich fruit with multiple health benefits.
But according to a recent study from Tufts University in Boston, prunes may also help slow the aging process in both the body and brain. The study ranks the antioxidant value of commonly eaten fruits and vegetables using an analysis called ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). Prunes top the list with more than twice the level of antioxidants than other high-scoring fruits such as blueberries and raisins.
ORAC is a test tube analysis that measures the total antioxidant power of foods and other chemical substances. Early findings suggest that this same antioxidant activity translates to animals, protecting cells and their components from oxidative damage.
The studies conducted at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University found that feeding middle-aged rats foods with plenty of antioxidants prevented loss of long-term memory and learning ability and maintained their ability to respond to a chemical stimulus.
According to Dr. Nancy Snyderman, medical correspondent for ABC news, the health benefits of antioxidants are well documented. "This study gives us one more reason to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. There's evidence in the scientific community that eating a low-fat, antioxidant-rich diet helps reduce your risk of breast and other types of cancer."
Antioxidants are special compounds that protect against oxidation, or cellular damage caused by free radicals. They are believed to protect the body by gobbling up the oxygen-derived free radicals that damage cells leading to heart disease, cancer, eye disorders like cataracts and macular degeneration, and other chronic health problems.
Well-know antioxidants include vitamin E, vitamin C and beta carotene. Thousands of other compounds found in fruits and vegetables, including flavonoids, are also believed to offer the protective benefits of antioxidants.
While antioxidant vitamin supplements have grown in popularity, it may be the combination of the nutrients in the foods that have the greatest effect.
"If these studies are borne out in further research, young and middle-aged people may be able to reduce risk of diseases of aging -- including senility -- simply by adding high (antioxidant) foods to their diets," said Floyd P. Horn, administrator of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, in Beltsville, Md.
This isn't the first research indicating prunes, which are dried plums, are high in antioxidant compounds. Researchers at the University of California, at Davis, found that prunes contain high amounts of neochlorogenic acid, a phenolic compound, and a strong antioxidant.
In addition, prunes are fat and cholesterol-free and are a delicious way to add fiber, vitamins and minerals to meet your dietary requirement of five fruits and vegetables a day. Previous studies have shown that about 12 prunes a day decreased total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in men with elevated blood cholesterol levels.
Top-scoring fruits and vegetables ORAC units per 100 grams (about 31/2 ounces)
Prunes 5570 Kale 1770 Raisins 2830 Spinach 1260 Blueberries 2400 Brussels sprouts 980 Blackberries 2036 Alfalfa sprouts 930 Strawberries 1540 Broccoli Flowers 890 Raspberries 1220 Beets 840 Plums 949 Red bell pepper 710 Oranges 750 Onion 450 Red grapes 739 Corn 400 Cherries 670 Eggplant 390 Kiwi fruit 602 Grapefruit, pink 483
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CONTACT: Ketchum PR for California Prune Board
Michele Sloat, 415/984-2229
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