In vitro, animal, clinical and epidemiologic studies indicate pear consumption potentially improves gut health and set the stage for further evidence of associated health benefits
To explore the potential health benefits associated with pear consumption and related health outcomes, Joanne Slavin, Ph.D., R.D., professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, assisted by food science graduate Holly Reiland, conducted a systematic review of studies from PubMed (database of the National Library of Medicine with citations and abstracts of biomedical literature) and Agricola (database of the National Agricultural Library with citations of agricultural literature) from 1970 to present.
Pears are an excellent source of fiber and a good source of vitamin C for only 100 calories per serving. One medium pear provides about 24 percent of daily fiber needs. They are sodium-free, cholesterol-free, fat-free and contain 190 mg of potassium. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans and CNPP MyPlate advise people who eat more fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to reduce their risk of some chronic diseases, although little is published on the health outcomes associated with individual fruits, including pears.
In the review conducted by Dr. Slavin and Reiland, pears were found to be a source of fructose, sorbitol and dietary fiber. "Americans fall short on dietary fiber," said Dr. Slavin. "The high content of dietary fiber in pears and their effects on gut health set pears apart from other fruit and deserves further study." Slavin found the body of evidence for a relationship between pear intake and health outcomes to be sparse and diverse and believes intervention studies with pears that show positive health outcomes, most likely improvements in gut health, are needed.
According to Slavin, an epidemiologic cohort study conducted by Larsson et al.2 found, among individual fruit and vegetable subgroups, inverse associations with total stroke and the consumption of pears, along with apples and leafy green vegetables. In a meta-analysis of twenty prospective cohort studies Hu et al.3 found apples/pears, citrus fruits and leafy vegetables might contribute to stroke protection.
An epidemiologic study conducted by Wedick et al.4 linked the consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods, particularly pears, apples and blueberries, with lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. An additional epidemiologic study via Mink et al.5 indicated flavonoid-rich foods including pears were associated with a significant reduction in mortality from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women.
While the body of evidence connecting pear intake and health outcomes is still limited, USA Pears has been contributing to research efforts by commissioning independent studies to learn and affirm the heath attributes of pears.