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The Secret Lives of Dates

August 26, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

In the field of nutrition, concepts are often sold in black and white terms, such as: “Sugar is bad for you” and “Vegetables are good for you”. On the face of it, this may seem reasonable enough. But, upon closer inspection it becomes evident that most foods are much more complex than that. For instance, let’s consider date fruits. They’re obviously very sweet and high in naturally occurring sugar. And yet, they possess some medicinal properties that defy expectations.

A new study presented in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that eating 6 dates daily for 4 weeks prior to delivery “significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labour, and produced a more favourable” delivery outcome. A trial published in September 2009 determined that consuming 100 grams/day of dates (about 4 fruits) over a one month period resulted in a meaningful decline in triglyceride levels and did not raise the participants body mass index or fasting blood sugar. What’s more, a measurable decline in oxidative stress (lipid peroxidation) was noted. This latter finding is in accordance with prior investigations that have determined that dates and other dried fruits possess high antioxidant capacity. Even so, I still think dates are probably best enjoyed as an occasional treat because of their caloric density. My personal preference is to add 1 or 2 chopped dates to unsweetened Greek yogurt or to stuff a few dates with raw walnuts. These combinations contribute additional nutrition to the mix and lower the overall glycemic load.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – The Effect of Late Pregnancy Consumption of Date Fruit on Labour (link)

Study 2 – Effects of Date (Phoenix dactylifera L., Medjool or Hallawi Variety) (link)

Study 3 – Dried Fruits: Excellent in Vitro and in Vivo Antioxidants (link)

Study 4 – Effects of One Serving of Mixed Nuts on Serum Lipids, Insulin (link)

Study 5 – The Glycemic Index of Dates and Date/Yogurt Mixed Meals … (link)

Dates Provide an Abundant Source of Antioxidant Phytochemicals

Source: J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Feb;24(1):44-50. (link)

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Posted in Food and Drink, Nutrition, Women's Health

7 Comments & Updates to “The Secret Lives of Dates”

  1. Gul Says:

    there is a verse in Quran regarding to date and lobour about Maryam (mary ) who is Jesus mother.When her pain of childbirth starts :
    And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates.
    Surat Maryam (Mary)

  2. JP Says:

    Very interesting! Thank you for sharing that verse with us. 🙂

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 10/03/15:


    Br J Nutr. 2015 Oct;114(8):1226-36.

    Impact of palm date consumption on microbiota growth and large intestinal health: a randomised, controlled, cross-over, human intervention study.

    The reported inverse association between the intake of plant-based foods and a reduction in the prevalence of colorectal cancer may be partly mediated by interactions between insoluble fibre and (poly)phenols and the intestinal microbiota. In the present study, we assessed the impact of palm date consumption, rich in both polyphenols and fibre, on the growth of colonic microbiota and markers of colon cancer risk in a randomised, controlled, cross-over human intervention study. A total of twenty-two healthy human volunteers were randomly assigned to either a control group (maltodextrin-dextrose, 37·1 g) or an intervention group (seven dates, approximately 50 g). Each arm was of 21 d duration and was separated by a 14-d washout period in a cross-over manner. Changes in the growth of microbiota were assessed by fluorescence in situ hybridisation analysis, whereas SCFA levels were assessed using HPLC. Further, ammonia concentrations, faecal water genotoxicity and anti-proliferation ability were also assessed using different assays, which included cell work and the Comet assay. Accordingly, dietary intakes, anthropometric measurements and bowel movement assessment were also carried out. Although the consumption of dates did not induce significant changes in the growth of select bacterial groups or SCFA, there were significant increases in bowel movements and stool frequency (P<0·01; n 21) and significant reductions in stool ammonia concentration (P<0·05; n 21) after consumption of dates, relative to baseline. Furthermore, date fruit intake significantly reduced genotoxicity in human faecal water relative to control (P<0·01; n 21). Our data indicate that consumption of date fruit may reduce colon cancer risk without inducing changes in the microbiota.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Updated 12/30/15:


    Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Dec 17;16(12):30075-90.

    Date (Phoenix dactylifera) Polyphenolics and Other Bioactive Compounds: A Traditional Islamic Remedy’s Potential in Prevention of Cell Damage, Cancer Therapeutics and Beyond.

    This review analyzes current studies of the therapeutic effects of Phoenix dactylifera, or date palm fruit, on the physiologic system. Specifically, we sought to summarize the effects of its application in preventing cell damage, improving cancer therapeutics and reducing damage caused by conventional chemotherapy. Phoenix dactylifera exhibits potent anti-oxidative properties both in vitro and in vivo. This allows the fruit to prevent depletion of intrinsic protection from oxidative cell damage and assist these defense systems in reducing cell damage. Macroscopically, this mechanism may be relevant to the prevention of various adverse drug events common to chemotherapy including hepatotoxicity, nephrotoxicity, gastrotoxicity, and peripheral neuropathy. While such effects have only been studied in small animal systems, research suggests a potential application to more complex mammalian systems and perhaps a solution to some problems of chemotherapy in hepato-compromised and nephro-compromised patients.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 12/21/16:


    Ann Saudi Med. 2016 Nov-Dec;36(6):397-403.

    Glycemic indices, glycemic load and glycemic response for seventeen varieties of dates grown in Saudi Arabia.

    BACKGROUND: Dates are consumed worldwide, and are an important fruit for many individuals in Saudi Arabia. Currently, limited information is available on the glycemic indices of different date varieties.

    OBJECTIVES: To determine the glycemic index (GI), glycemic load (GL) and glycemic response for 17 common date varieties in Saudi Arabia.

    DESIGN: Prospective clinical trial on healthy subjects.

    SETTING: College of Medicine, Qassim University, Buraydah, Saudi Arabia.

    PATIENTS AND METHODS: The available carbohydrate content of Tamer stage dates was determined using standard laboratory methods. Healthy subjects (ten males and nine females) received 50 g of glucose (on three separate occasions) and 50 g equivalent of available carbohydrates from the seventeen varieties of date (each once). The GI and GL were then calculated.

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): GI, GL, and glycemic response.

    RESULTS: The mean (SEM) GI of the date samples was 55.2 (7.7) (range, 42.8-74.6). Sellaj and Maktoomi exhibited the highest GI (74.6 [10.1] and 71.0 [11.1]), respectively, whereas Shaqra, Sukkary, and Sag’ai had the lowest GI (42.8 [5.5], 43.4 [4.7] and 44.6 [6]), respectively. The GL of the date samples ranged from 8.5 to 24. Sellaj had a high GL (24), whereas Ajwah and Shaqra had a low GL (8.5 and 9.2). The analyses suggested no significant difference in GI between the date varieties. However, the GL values differed significantly between the 17 date varieties (P < .001). CONCLUSION: The results provide reliable GI and GL values for 17 common date varieties in Saudi Arabia. The identification of date varieties with lower glycemic responses may help lower the GI of the diet of both healthy and diabetic Saudi individuals. Be well! JP

  6. JP Says:

    Updated 03/03/17:


    J Res Med Sci. 2016 Nov 7;21:108.

    A randomized controlled trial on the effects of jujube fruit on the concentrations of some toxic trace elements in human milk.

    BACKGROUND: This study aims to investigate the concentrations of lead, cadmium, and arsenic in the human milk, and to assess the effect of jujube fruit consumption by lactating mothers in reducing the concentration of these heavy metals in their milk.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: This randomized controlled trial was conducted in 2014 among forty postpartum mothers in Isfahan, the second largest and polluted city in Iran. Mothers were randomized into two groups; the intervention group received 15 g/day of fresh jujube fruit, and the controls received routine care for 8 weeks.

    RESULTS: In the beginning, the concentrations of lead, cadmium, and arsenic were high, without significant difference between groups. The mean (standard deviation) concentrations of lead, cadmium, and arsenic were 29.49 (16.6), 4.65 (3.51), and 1.23 (0.63) μg/L, respectively. The smoothed empirical distribution of environmental pollutants showed that in both groups the mean values and variance of toxic metals decreased after 8 weeks, with a sharper decline in the intervention group. Quantile regression analysis showed that in the intervention group, lead concentration decreased by 2.54 μg/L at the 90th quintile, and cadmium decreased by 0.19 μg/Lat 75th quintile; without significant change in arsenic level. The corresponding figures were not significant in the control group.

    CONCLUSION: The concentrations of heavy metals were high in human milk, and the consumption of jujube fruit had some beneficial effects in reducing these harmful elements. Pregnant and lactating mothers should be advised to reduce their exposure to environmental pollutants, and consumption of some natural medicinal foods can be useful in reducing the concentration of pollutants in human milk. Because of numerous benefits of breast milk, in spite of the existence of some toxic trace elements, breastfeeding must be encouraged because such contaminants are also found in water and formula. The impact of the current findings on the primary prevention of chronic disease should be determined in future longitudinal studies.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 03/09/17:


    Phytother Res. 2017 Mar 7.

    Effect of Ziziphus jujube Fruit Infusion on Lipid Profiles, Glycaemic Index and Antioxidant Status in Type 2 Diabetic Patients: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial.

    This study was designed to assess the effects of Ziziphus jujube fruit (ZJF) infusion on lipid profiles, glycaemic control and antioxidant status in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). In this randomized controlled clinical trial, 116 participants with T2DM (older than 30 years) were assigned to consume a balanced diet or diet plus ZJF infusion (10 g/100 mL boiling water) three times/day before main meals for 12 weeks. Diet was designed to be energy restricted (500 kcal/day deficit from estimated energy requirements), and macronutrient content was similar in both groups (55% carbohydrate, 15% protein and 30% fat). The consumption of ZJF infusion compared with the control group was associated with significant improvement in glycosylated haemoglobin (-0.68 ± 0.65 vs. -0.44 ± 0.55%; p = 0.03), total cholesterol (-24.29 ± 28.89 vs. -11.21 ± 29.98 mg/dL; p = 0.02), triglycerides (-43.3 ± 39.26 vs. -27.16 ± 46.84 mg/dL; p = 0.05), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (-19.85 ± 27.62 vs. -6.55 ± 27.82 mg/dL; p = 0.01), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (-0.56 ± 0.80 vs. -0.2 ± 0.72; p = 0.01) and total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratios (-0.73 ± 0.94 vs. -0.35 ± 0.77; p = 0.02). ZJF had beneficial effects on glycosylated haemoglobin and lipid profile in T2DM patients. Further research is needed to identify the mechanism of ZJF action on glucose and lipid metabolism.

    Be well!


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