Dates And Their Potential Anti-Inflammatory Effects

  • Saira Loane Master's of Toxicology, Institute of Biomedical Research, University of Birmingham

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Introduction

Date palms are native to arid regions and can be grown in the wild or under cultivation. The plant is commonly grown in arid regions of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Dates are traditionally used for several purposes and their nutritional significance is beyond imagination. 

Chemical analysis of date fruits indicated significant variation in nutritional composition, depending on the species cultivars. The date palms contain high concentrations of sugar as its main components. Date fruits generally contain several polyphenols, including phenolic acids, flavonoids, glycosides, alkaloids, flavour volatile compounds, and more constituents that vary with different date varieties.1

For thousands of years, date fruits have been a staple food in the Middle East. Various dates, including Khalas, Rutahana, Ajwa, and Sefri, are found worldwide. Each type of data has shown medicinal value in various types of disease prevention. Dates and their constituents play a significant role in disease prevention through their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial activity, offering a reassuring promise of health benefits.2

Earlier studies have shown that constituents of dates act as potent antioxidants, ant-tumour and anti-inflammatory, providing a suitable alternative therapy in various diseases. 

Nutritional composition of dates

Dates have an excellent nutritional profile. Dates are dried fruits; their calories are higher than fresh fruits. Most calories in dates come from carbohydrates. In addition to fibre and small components of protein, they are full of vitamins and minerals.3

Dates are rich in carbohydrates, with fructose, glucose, lactose, mannose and sucrose representing >80% of dry matter. Sugar contents and other compositions vary with food ripening and variety.4

A 100 gm serving of Medjool dates provides the following nutrients:3

  • Carbohydrates 75 grams 
  • Calories 277 grams
  • Proteins 2 grams
  • Fibre 7 grams 
  • Magnesium 13% DV
  • Iron 5 % DV
  • Potassium 15% DV

Dates are also rich in vitamin A, vitamin B1 and B2. The contents vary, depending on the type and the stages of ripening. For example, vitamin C content in Rutab dates is more significant than in dry dates.1

Magnesium and potassium in dates are proven to be beneficial against cardiovascular diseases. Potassium and magnesium can also help support healthy blood pressure by relaxing and dilating blood vessels, which are essential for heart health. 

Polyphenols and flavonoids in dates

Polyphenols and flavonoids are natural bioactive compounds found in dates. They are packed with antioxidant properties and have been shown to have several health benefits. 

Some of the polyphenols found in dates include phenolic acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, and polysterols.

Ripe fruits were reported to contain a substantial amount of carotenoids, decreasing towards the final stages of ripening and storage. These components benefit human health as antioxidants and maintain a specific cellular haemostasis.1 

Phenolics have also been considered to provide a defence mechanism against pathogens. 

Phenolic and flavonoid compounds in dates provide excellent anti-inflammatory support and significantly reduce inflammation associated with conditions like cancer, diabetes, and other medical conditions.9

Dates and oxidative stress

Oxidants interact with and neutralise harmful particles in our body known as free radicals, thus preventing them from causing damage. Stopping these free radicals is a crucial part of managing diseases. 

Medicinal plants and their constituents play vital and significant roles in neutralising or inhibiting free radicals by using antioxidant activity. Another study shows that plant phenolic components, including flavonoids, are effective antioxidants with reported antimutagenic and anti-carcinogenic effects. Dates have antioxidant properties that can help reduce inflammation and prevent diseases.

Date fruits are high in carbohydrates, salts, minerals, fibres, vitamins, fatty acids, and amino acids. Date palms play a significant role in neutralising free radicals and suppress various types of disease progression.2

Due to their high concentration of carotenoids and phenolics (3942 mg/100 gm) and antioxidant components (80400 umol/100 gm), dates are a rich source of antioxidants.

Ajwa date extract has a tissue protective effect via free radical scavenging and antioxidant properties. Polyphenol concentration is different in each type of date; Ajwa date water extract (455.88/100 gm) has the highest polyphenol concentration as compared to other varieties, such as sukkari (377.66 mh/100 gm) and Khalas (238.54 mg/100 g) and the same pattern was noticed in alcohol extract.2

Dates, fibre and gut health

Enhancing your gut health and overall well-being is within your reach, and it's as straightforward as incorporating dates into your diet. These nutritional gems are brimming with fibre that not only satiates you but also fosters healthy digestion and heart health.

Did you know that just three dates contain 5 grams of fibre? 

In 2015, a study found that eating seven dates for 21 days increased bowel movement and stool frequency. Plus, the fibre in dates helps balance the fruit's natural sugar, allowing it to absorb more slowly into your bloodstream.

One of the standout benefits of dates is their soluble fibre content, which is pivotal in safeguarding heart health. This fibre latches onto dietary cholesterol in the small intestine, ensuring it exits the body instead of being absorbed, thereby keeping your cholesterol levels balanced. 

A small study containing 100 men and women with type 2 diabetes suggested a significant decrease in cholesterol and bad LDL among those who added dates to their diet.5

The effects of dates on inflammatory markers 

Inflammatory markers are identified by the blood tests that doctors or physicians use to test inflammation in the body caused by many diseases, including auto-immune diseases, cancers, and infections. The three most commonly used inflammatory markers are C-reactive proteins (CRP), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and plasma viscosity.7

Several studies showed that consuming date seeds may improve inflammation, muscle damage, and oxidative stress biomarkers. Platate et al., reported that acute date seed powder supplementation during high-intensity interval training sessions for two weeks resulted in a significant downward trend in high sensitivity C-reactive proteins, tumour necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-6, and lactate dehydrogenase after the intervention, as well as a substantial increase in total antioxidant capacity.8 However, interleukin levels did not change significantly compared to the placebo group.

The study concluded that during the two weeks of the high-intensity training protocol, the consumption of date seed powder by participants who had been engaged in moderate or high-intensity physical activity alleviated muscle damage and inflammation.8

Questions 

When is the best time to eat dates?

Dates are full of nutrients and have been widely used throughout the world. Dates hold high value in many cultures and religions. 

Dates are full of fibre, and eating dates for breakfast keeps you full throughout the day. Dates can be added as an afternoon snack. Dates are high in sugar; therefore, eating them before a workout provides a slow release of carbs and a steady stream of energy throughout the exercise.

How many dates can you eat per day?

This depends on the total calorie intake of an individual. Dates are full of calories and high in sugar. Dry dates contain more calories because of the concentrated sugar. 

A person with an average diet can consume 2 to 3 dates daily, but athletes or sportspeople may need more.5

Are dates good for diabetes?

Due to their low glycemic index and high fibre content, dates are a good choice for people with diabetes. They are perfect energy snacks for those who have diabetes. 

Dates have a low IG, which means they are less likely to spike your blood sugar level, making them the best choice for people with diabetes.6

Summary

Date fruits contain nutrients, fibre, and antioxidants that may support brain health, prevent disease, and reduce inflammation. Dates have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties due to their high antioxidant content. 

Antioxidants protect the body from the damage caused by harmful molecules such as free radicals. Consuming dates as part of a balanced diet may contribute to reduction in chronic inflammation, and improve health. 

Due to their affordability, efficiency, and accessibility, dates and their components are a helpful preventative measure against many diseases. The role of dates in disease prevention creates a positive optimism towards novel therapeutic strategies. 

Given that dates are known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-tumour properties, more research involving animal testing and clinical trials is necessary to confirm the exact mechanism of action of the dates and their role in disease prevention. 

References 

  1. Dates (Fruit) - an overview | science direct topics [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 22]. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/dates-fruit
  2. Rahmani AH, Aly SM, Ali H, Babiker AY, Srikar S, khan AA. Therapeutic effects of date fruits (Phoenix dactylifera) in the prevention of diseases via modulation of anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-tumour activity. Int J Clin Exp Med [Internet]. 2014 Mar 15 [cited 2024 Jan 22];7(3):483–91. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3992385/
  3. Fooddata central [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 22]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168191/nutrients
  4. Maqsood S, Adiamo O, Ahmad M, Mudgil P. Bioactive compounds from date fruit and seed as potential nutraceutical and functional food ingredients. Food Chemistry [Internet]. 2020 Mar 5 [cited 2024 Jan 22];308:125522. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814619316401
  5. Real Simple [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 22]. 8 reasons why snacking on dates is a smart way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Available from: https://www.realsimple.com/health/nutrition-diet/dates-nutrition-facts
  6. Can people suffering with diabetes eat dates? [Internet]. FoodsForBetterHealth. 2017 [cited 2024 Jan 23]. Available from: https://www.foodsforbetterhealth.com/can-diabetics-eat-dates-34840.
  7. ARC West [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 23]. Inflammatory markers explained. Available from: https://arc-w.nihr.ac.uk/news/inflammatory-markers-explained/
  8. Moslemi E, Dehghan P, Khalafi M. Effectiveness of supplementation with date seed (Phoenix dactylifera) as a functional food on inflammatory markers, muscle damage, and BDNF following high-intensity interval training: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Nutr [Internet]. 2023 Aug 1 [cited 2024 Jan 23];62(5):2001–14. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-023-03125-9
  9. Forbes Health [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2024 Jan 23]. 5 health benefits of dates, according to nutrition experts. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/health/nutrition/dates-benefits/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Saira Loane

Master's of Toxicology, Institute of Biomedical Research, University of Birmingham

Saira Loane is an aspiring medical writer with several years of experience working in scientific
research and developing high-quality medical content.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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