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Why do plums make you poop?

Elsewhere in the world, plums occupy the head of the table. Here in America, they’re often the buttocks of jokes. The shiny, sweet-dried fruits are both exploited and derided for their laxative properties. But do they really make you poop?

Conventional wisdom and dozens of elderly people insist that eating plums speeds up the elimination process. In the meantime, the European Union says it will not. In a 2010 judgment, the European Food Safety Authority ruled that it was dishonest to sell plums as a laxative [PDF]. The verdict, which cited “insufficient evidence” of the poop-inducing properties of plums, met with disbelief and ridicule.

A disgruntled parliamentarian challenged the verdict. “Most of our constituents don̵

7;t need a scientific test,” said Sir Graham Watson. Watson then asked the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy to hold a competition to eat prunes and invited the man to “see it for yourself”.

There is actually a ton of scientific evidence to prove the power of plums. On his blog on compound chemistry, chemist Andy Brunning noted that studies in 2008 and 2011 concluded that prunes are indeed effective laxatives.

Like many fruits, plums contain high levels of insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to food during the digestive process while also helping it get through the system faster. Plums also contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that is used to sweeten things like chewing gum. It’s found naturally in plums, although it’s often used as an artificial sweetener in “sugar-free” chewing gum. Sorbitol is a laxative so you should be careful about how much sugar-free gum you are chewing.

But the sorbitol doesn’t work alone, says Brunning. Plums are naturally infused with neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids – the same chemicals you can send to the bathroom after your morning coffee.

Yes, plums can make the passage of certain personal packages easier. But they’re also delicious – a fact that is often overshadowed by their functionality. Because of this, the plum lobby started a massive rebranding in 2000. If you go to the dried fruit section of your grocery store, you will likely find “dried plums” instead of plums.

“Ninety percent of consumers said they would be more likely to enjoy the fruit if labeled a dried plum rather than a plum,” said the newly renamed California Dried Plum Board in a press release titled “You Won’t Have” Plums to kick around more. “

Under any name, “dried plums” still have the power to move you – no matter what the European Union says.

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