The Role Of Dates In Promoting Bone Strength

  • Shazia Asim PhD Scholar (Pharmacology), University of Health Sciences Lahore, Pakistan

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Introduction

The date palm tree is one of the oldest fruit crops that is cultivated abundantly as a staple food, especially in Gulf countries. The fruit is prominent in the religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, with date palms thought to be the original “apple tree” in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve.1

The chewy fruits of date palms are enriched with numerous therapeutic bioactive and functional compounds such as flavonols, phenolics, carotenoids, cinnamic acid, tannins, vitamins, and minerals. The main constituents of these fruits are carbohydrates in the form of glucose, fructose, and Non-Starch Polysaccharides. There is a high content of simple sugars, however, the quality of carbohydrates determined by the Glycaemic Index (GI), has shown that most date varieties have low GI values.2 The beautiful combination of these functional compounds provides an appreciable amount of energy vital for the human body and acts as an effective therapeutic agent against several diseases. 

What is bone strength and how is it related to nutrition?

Bone strength is the bone’s resistance to fracture and is considered the gold standard of bone quality. Bone is a highly vascular tissue and needs the provision of nutrients to constantly model (form new bone) and remodel (recycle damaged bone). The process of bone formation requires an adequate and constant supply of nutrients, such as calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, potassium, and fluoride.3

Inadequate intake of nutrients important to bone, increases the risk for bone loss and subsequent osteoporosis. Does your diet supply enough nutrients to maintain bone strength, what happens to your bones if you don’t take enough nutrients, what are the important outcomes or consequences if you have low bone strength? and what are important foods and nutrients that help you maintain or regain bone strength? Let's go through the following narrative to know the answers to these questions.

Nutrients for bone strength 

Throughout your life, starting from childhood, a balanced diet helps you build healthy bones. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons following are a few nutrients that are responsible for maintaining good bone strength4 

  • Calcium 
  • Vitamin D 
  • Phosphorous
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin C
  • Other micronutrients eg, selenium, zinc

Amongst these calcium and vitamin D are the most important nutrients. You should be able to get all the nutrients by eating a balanced diet. Lack of proper nutrients leads to poor bone health and can cause conditions such as rickets and osteoporosis and increase the risk of breaking a bone from a fall later in life.4

Different foods, including fruits and vegetables, offer a harmonious combination of nutrients that if taken regularly save you from relying on nutrient supplements. Date fruit is one such example that is full of nutrients and offers several health benefits. 

Nutritional facts about dates 

Dates have enormous scope and potential for use as food because of their nutritional and economic value. Dates are rich sources of macro and micronutrients including carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids and dietary minerals, carotenoids, and fatty acids, and cinnamic acid derivatives. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one serving of dates includes about 100 grams or four dates, which contains a high percentage of your recommended daily amount of the following nutrients5

  • High source of energy: an average of 314 kcal
  • Carbohydrates, are the most prominent nutrient, including soluble sugars and dietary fibre, followed by only small amounts of lipids, proteins
  • Ten minerals were reported, the major being selenium, copper, potassium, magnesium, and iron. The consumption of 100 g of dates can provide over 15% of the recommended daily allowance from these minerals
  • Vitamins B-complex, vitamin K, and C are the major vitamins in dates. 
  • High in dietary fibre 
  • Carotenoids and phenolics offer good antioxidant nutrients 

Role of dates in promoting bone strength

Bones are constantly losing and replacing minerals. Continuous deficiency of minerals like calcium and vitamin D may cause osteoporosis, a major public health problem that affects millions of people worldwide. The major complication of osteoporosis is an increase in the incidence of fractures leading to morbidity, mortality, and decreased quality of life, especially in old age.6 Dates fruit contains nutrients including potassium, magnesium, folate, selenium, fibre, and vitamin C beneficial for bones and provides energy. The balanced combination of nutrients in date provides enormous benefits if used regularly. The following passages highlight the utility of dates and their functional nutrients in different phases of life 

At a young age

The bones of children are constantly growing. During this phase of life, they need an abundance of calcium that strengthens their bones. Dates have a high percentage of calcium within them and may contribute to maintaining strong and healthy bones. It can be stated that dates act as natural bone strengtheners. In addition to calcium, dates offer plenty of copper, selenium, and magnesium, which are also considered crucial nutrients for growing bone. They are rich in vitamin K, which is also an important contributor to growing bone health.7

Among people AFAB

Regularly consuming dates in your routine offers a great package to live a healthy life due to the functional and nutraceutical properties of this valuable fruit. Especially in people AFAB, this naturally sweet and tangy fruit offers abundant nutrients to cater to bone health in all phases of reproductive life,

Menarche

Early menarche may have a protective effect on the development of osteoporosis. Since dates are a rich source of iron, folate, vitamin C, and many other vital minerals and nutrients, they help relieve problems that can hinder menstruation, therefore regulating the menstrual flow and indirectly promoting bone health at this age.8

Pregnancy 

During pregnancy, people AFAB need a lot of nutrients, including calcium for foetal growth. Selenium, magnesium, manganese, and copper in dates are also necessary for bone health and avoid loss of bone density. Dates contain the B vitamin folate, also known as folic acid, an important nutrient during pregnancy, for the skeletal growth and prevention of spina bifida in the fetus.9

Menopause

 Bone density starts to decrease with lowered levels of Oestrogen around the time of menopause. Ideally one should aim to eat about 1,300 mg of calcium every day, especially in menopausal age. Including 4 to 5 dates in your routine diet will help your bones to keep up the strength in this phase of your life period

Old age

As you get older, minerals can start to draw out of your bones, leaving them brittle and fragile, leading to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a major cause of fractures in older people.10 Dates are rich in selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium, and all of these are required when it comes to keeping our bones healthy and preventing conditions such as osteoporosis.

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Recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for nutrients important for maintaining bone strength and their quantity in 100 g of date fruit11,12

NutrientRDA for Bone HealthQuantity in 100g of DatesFunction in Bone Health
Calcium1000 mg64 mgEssential for bone structure and mineralization.
Phosphorus700 mg62 mgImportant for bone formation and structure.
Magnesium400 mg54 mgInvolved in bone mineralization and bone density.
Vitamin D600 IUNot significantAids in calcium absorption for bone health.
Vitamin K90 mcg2.7 mcgSupports bone mineralization and calcium regulation.
Vitamin C90 mg0.4 mgRequired for collagen synthesis, a component of bone.
Potassium4700 mg696 mgSupports bone health and may reduce bone resorption.
Selenium55 mcgNot significantAntioxidant properties may protect against oxidative stress.
Zinc8– 11 mg Not significantEssential for bone formation, mineralization, and collagen synthesis.

Dates are not particularly high in certain nutrients crucial for bone health, such as calcium and vitamin D. But if you have a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods including dates, it will provide all nutrient needs for maintaining overall health, including bone health.

FAQ’s

Do dates provide collagen?

The ascorbic acid and vitamin E in the date, it stimulates dermal fibroblasts and increase collagen levels; which not only is helpful in bone strength but also significantly correlates with anti-aging.13

Are dates rich in iron?

Dates are rich in iron. The amount of iron is much higher in dates as compared to other fruits. These are ideal fruits in iron deficiency anaemias.14

Do dates offer anti-ageing benefits?

Date fruit and seed are rich in sugar, vitamins, fibre, minerals, and phenolic compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that significantly promote human health. Bioactive compounds and essential oils are also abundant in date fruit pulp and seeds. These compounds possess anti ageing properties and help slow the ageing process of skin.15

Summary 

Throughout your life, a balanced diet helps you build healthy bones. The process of bone formation requires an adequate and constant supply of nutrients, such as calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, potassium, and fluoride. Inadequate intake of nutrients increases the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis or rickets. Different foods, including fruits and vegetables, offer nutrients that if taken regularly help you maintain overall general health and bone health.

Dates are rich sources of macro and micronutrients and are a natural source of dietary fibre, essential vitamins, and minerals. Amongst these nutrients calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K are worth mentioning for bone strength. Dates are healthy to include in your diet however, it's important to use them in moderation as they are calorie-dense due to their natural sugar.

References

  • Yadin-Israel A. Temptation Transformed: The Story of How the Forbidden Fruit Became an Apple. University of Chicago Press; 2023 Jan 10.
  • Hart NH, Newton RU, Tan J, Rantalainen T, Chivers P, Siafarikas A, et al. Biological basis of bone strength: anatomy, physiology and measurement. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2024 Jan 22];20(3):347–71. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7493450/
  • Palacios C. The role of nutrients in bone health, from A to Z. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006;46(8):621–8 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408390500466174
  • nhs.uk [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Jan 24]. Food for healthy bones. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/bone-health/food-for-strong-bones/
  • Hussain MI, Farooq M, Syed QA. Nutritional and biological characteristics of the date palm fruit (Phoenix dactylifera L.) – A review. Food Bioscience [Internet]. 2020 Apr 1 [cited 2024 Jan 22];34:100509. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212429218309866
  • Muñoz-Garach A, García-Fontana B, Muñoz-Torres M. Nutrients and dietary patterns related to osteoporosis. Nutrients [Internet]. 2020 Jul 3 [cited 2024 Jan 24];12(7):1986. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7400143/
  • Rodríguez-Olleros Rodríguez C, Díaz Curiel M. Vitamin k and bone health: a review on the effects of vitamin k deficiency and supplementation and the effect of non-vitamin k antagonist oral anticoagulants on different bone parameters. J Osteoporos [Internet]. 2019 Dec 31 [cited 2024 Jan 23];2019:2069176. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6955144/
  • Parker SE, Troisi R, Wise LA, Palmer JR, Titus-Ernstoff L, Strohsnitter WC, et al. Menarche, menopause, years of menstruation, and the incidence of osteoporosis: the influence of prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol. J Clin Endocrinol Metab [Internet]. 2014 Feb [cited 2024 Jan 23];99(2):594–601. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3913806/
  • Saryono MD, Rahmawati E. Effects of dates fruit (phoenix dactylifera l.) in the female reproductive process. International J of Recent Advances in Multidisciplinary Res. 2016 May 19;3(7):1630-3.
  • Branch NSC and O. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 2017 [cited 2024 Jan 24]. Osteoporosis. Available from: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/osteoporosis
  • Al-Farsi* MA, Lee CY. Nutritional and functional properties of dates: a review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition [Internet]. 2008 Oct 21 [cited 2024 Jan 24];48(10):877–87. Available from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408390701724264
  • Calcium, nutrition, and bone health - orthoinfo - aaos [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 25]. Available from: https://www.orthoinfo.org/en/staying-healthy/calcium-nutrition-and-bone-health/
  • Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 24]. The sweet health benefits of dates. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/benefits-of-dates
  • Alharbi KL, Raman J, Shin HJ. Date fruit and seed in nutricosmetics. Cosmetics [Internet]. 2021 Sep [cited 2024 Jan 25];8(3):59. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2079-9284/8/3/59
  • Bouhlali E dine T, Ramchoun M, Alem C, Ghafoor K, Ennassir J, Zegzouti YF. Functional composition and antioxidant activities of eight Moroccan date fruit varieties (Phoenix dactylifera L.). Journal of the Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences [Internet]. 2017 Jul 1 [cited 2024 Jan 25];16(3):257–64. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1658077X1530028X

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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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Shazia Asim

PhD Scholar (Pharmacology), University of Health Sciences Lahore, Pakistan

I have extensive experience of teaching Pharmacology at an undergraduate medical institute in Lahore, Pakistan. I mentor my students by nurturing their curiosity and encouraging them to know this subject through interactive discussions. I also like to guide my students in research projects and learn pharmacology through real world application of pharmacological principles.

During my MPhil, my keen interest in research work on Aloe vera plant extract and its effect on urinary tract infection got me a gold medal. Currently, I am enrolled at the University of Health Sciences, Lahore as a Ph.D. scholar. Other than my profession and my research work, I get immense satisfaction in writing. I am an avid writer and contribute insightful articles to medical journals and mainstream newspapers, both local and international. I am a strong advocate of preventive health care and my mission is to empower individuals with knowledge that encourages them to take charge of their wellbeing.

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