An animal study published in the British Journal of Nutrition this month suggests that eating dried plums slows the development of atherosclerosis. An inflammatory disease, better known as “hardening of the arteries,” it is the condition that leads to cardiovascular disease and stroke, and is the leading cause of death in our society.

Although there are numerous studies of the effects of fruit and vegetables on serum cholesterol, few exist on the reduction of atherosclerosis. In fact, this study appears to be the first examining the effect of a fruit, in this case dried plums, on this type of disease.

“This study breaks new ground by showing a significant reduction in the development of a major inflammatory disease,” says lead researcher Dr. Dan Gallaher, professor of nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota. “It also strengthens the notion of eating fruit, in particular dried plums, as a preventive measure against heart disease.”

Dried plums, often touted for their digestive health benefits, are emerging as a heart-healthy addition to a diet. Previous studies show that dried plums reduce LDL cholesterol in humans and that the fiber pectin found in dried plums reduces cholesterol in animals. The versatile dried fruit has many nutrients, including potassium, magnesium and boron, as well as a high antioxidant score, giving dried plums numerous health benefits from helping maintain desirable blood sugar levels to possibly reducing skin wrinkles.

“I consider dried plums a super fruit because of their unique health benefits and also because they’re super-affordable, delicious and fit easily into a busy lifestyle,” says Dave Grotto, author of “101 Foods That Could Save Your Life.”

The study was conducted over a five-month period on a strain of mice that develop atherosclerosis more quickly than normal. The amount of dried plum powder shown to significantly reduce the area of atherosclerotic lesion was equivalent to eating 10 to 12 dried plums a day in a human diet. The study revealed a reduction in the area of atherosclerotic lesions in the entire arterial system as well as the aortic arch.

This study was sponsored by the California Dried Plum Board (CDPB) and the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station.