There are many factors that contribute to your heart disease risk, from a family history of the condition to the amount of exercise you get to comorbidities like hypertension and obesity. However, there's one surprising way to slash your risk of developing heart disease, according to a new study, and it's an easy one at that.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, consuming prunes on a regular basis may help mitigate some of the risk factors that can contribute to your heart disease risk.
To conduct their investigation, researchers from the San Diego State University School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences studied 48 healthy postmenopausal women over a six-month period. The women were divided into three groups: one group ate no prunes, one group consumed 50 grams of prunes (about five or six prunes in total) per day, and one group had 100 grams of prunes (approximately 10 to 12 prunes) each day. No other modifications were made to study subjects' eating habits or other lifestyle factors.
What researchers found was that, after six months, the individuals who consumed either 50 or 100 grams of prunes each day saw significant improvements in their total cholesterol and their HDL, or "good" cholesterol, both of which can affect a person's risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Among the prune-consuming study subjects, two indications of inflammation—interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha—both known to contribute to heart disease risk, were reduced as well.
"Reducing chronic inflammation and increasing antioxidant capacity in the body is associated with lower risk of CVD, along with many other diseases," said Mark Kern, Ph.D., RD, CSSD Professor of Nutrition at the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University, said in a statement.
While it hasn't been conclusively determined exactly how prunes managed to reduce inflammation or cholesterol levels among the individuals studied, the addition of these tasty fruits to your diet is an easy lifestyle intervention to tackle.
"Not only does this study show that prunes may be a good way to reduce inflammation and increase antioxidant capacity, it also suggests that eating prunes every day may improve cholesterol levels in postmenopausal women," explained Kern.
This isn't the first time research has suggested that prunes may be an effective means of lowering cholesterol and reducing heart disease risk. A 1991 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, among a group of 41 adult men with mildly high cholesterol, consuming 12 prunes a day significantly lowered their low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol, a known contributor to heart disease risk.
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