Health Benefits

The Many Health Benefits of Dates

A study conducted by Prof. Emeritus Michael Aviram  and colleagues Discovered important facts about the health effects of dates. Here is a Transcription of an interview conducted with him regarding the study.

I’m Michael Aviram, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at the Technion Faculty of Medicine.

Everyone knows that high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood are major risk factor for atherosclerosis( blocked arteries). But many people don’t realize that it’s not just a question of cholesterol and triglycerides quantity. It’s also a matter of their quality.

When iron is oxidized, it becomes rusty and corroded. Similarly, when blood cholesterol and triglycerides are oxidized, they cause real damage. Oxidized cholesterol forms plaque in the artery walls, which can lead to blockages and serious health consequences, like heart attack or stroke.

In the last 30 years, we have studied many fruits and vegetables to see if they can help to protect us against these processes that cause heart attacks and strokes. We showed that red wine, pomegranate juice, and olive oil , all contain antioxidants that protect against plaque formation.

Recently, we decided to investigate another fruit of the Israeli seven species to complete the set, by studying dates. It was the first study to research the health impact of dates on human cardiovascular health. Dates contain natural sugars, so our first question was whether eating dates would cause weight gain or raise blood sugar levels over time.

The answer was very encouraging. We found that our participants did not experience any significant weight gain. In addition, there was no increase in their blood sugar.

Interview with Prof. Emeritus Michael Aviram, Head of the Lipid Research Laboratory, Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion.

From there, we started looking at whether the dates affected blood lipid levels, and found that there was no detrimental effect on blood cholesterol levels.

As for triglycerides, we found a significant reduction of some 15% in blood triglyceride levels.

This has huge significance from a health perspective, because today we understand that cholesterol isn’t the only risk factor, triglycerides play an important role too, so we need to lower their levels and prevent them from blocking the arteries.

We also found that dates contain unique antioxidants, thanks to their high phenolics content, which provide excellent protection against oxidative processes. In fact, all the participants in our study exhibited a decrease in blood lipid oxidation, and that decrease means a decrease in their risk of a heart attack or stroke.

What does this mean from a nutritional standpoint? That it can be beneficial to add small amount of dates to our natural diet.

“Effects of Date (Phoenix dactylifera L., Medjool or Hallawi Variety) Consumption by Healthy Subjects on Serum Glucose and Lipid Levels and on Serum Oxidative Status: A Pilot Study” was published by Prof. Aviram and his colleagues in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry in September 2009.

The main conclusions of the study