New research reveals America’s most-hated vegetable may hold the secret to a longer life

There is a great deal of hard science you never hear about from “natural-know-it-alls” or “Johnny-come-lately” experts in natural health.

I keep my eye on all of the important clinical-trial research (the kind the FDA has rigged up for drug studies). But I also understand how to read statistics and epidemiology-based research, as well as lab studies on animals, which can confound and confuse (sometimes on purpose) the typical doctor.

And that’s what led me to an important new study—which should be of vital interest to everyone who wants to achieve the kind of healthy aging I discussed at length in April’s Special Healthy-Aging Edition of Insiders’ Cures.

Researchers have discovered that a compound found in one of the most hated vegetables in America—the “dreaded” lima bean—can help male fruit flies lower their glucose levels and improve their body composition.  And that helped boost the flies’ lifespan by a whopping 10%.

Of course, most natural-know-it-alls have overlooked this study because it has to do with fruit flies, rather than people. But I’m going to share with you several key reasons why you shouldn’t shoo away these findings. And why you really should eat more lima beans…

What most doctors don’t know or won’t tell you about scientific research

Several years ago, when I was directing the College of Physicians in Philadelphia, an American Medical Association official visited our offices.

I was startled to learn from him that a routine AMA survey of doctors found that only 9% of practicing physicians got their new medical information from the medical and scientific literature.

These doctors apparently didn’t have time to read through the studies in medical journals. So they relied on the colorful pictures in drug ads, and the snappy literature left by the drug sales men and women waiting in their offices—or taking them out to expensive lunches, dinners, golf games, and meetings. (To its credit, the AMA has since come out with ethical guidelines and restrictions about accepting gifts from drug and medical-device company reps.)

Of course, I don’t have to tell you how much of a mistake it is for anyone to rely on drug company propaganda for medical information. Particularly because Nature provides all kinds of clues (as well as cures) about what is going on with your body…and your health.

All it takes is the simple realization that our bodies are not machines like those created by medical technology, but rather organisms that were originally a part of Nature. In fact, research in biology, earth sciences, ecology, ethology, and other natural sciences is often highly relevant to understanding human health.

You won’t catch the vast majority of other doctors reading all of these types of scientific literature. But I take note of findings from all of the natural sciences, and they often help me discover a health “breakthrough” when pieced together with other types of research sources. And then I report that breakthrough to you.

Which leads me to fruit flies and longevity…

The simple insect that can teach you how to live longer

Anti-aging, healthy aging, or life extension (depending on which term you prefer) is of great concern to many people. But there aren’t many good, clinical, human studies in this field. That’s because these types of real scientific studies take a long time to do—literally a human’s lifetime.

(Also, the vast majority of research funding is tied up in expensive clinical trials for drugs—because the crony-capitalist mainstream is far more interested in studying drugs than natural remedies.)

So when I look for good scientific data from valid, well-designed studies on prolonging lifespan (versus the hype you typically hear from the “anti-aging” gurus), I often turn to experimental biology research using animal models.

Particularly fruit flies. After all, scientists have been studying these insects for over a century, following their entire lifespans over multiple generations.

Much of the basic science of genetics, for example, was originally determined in inexpensive fruit fly experiments (long before the billion-dollar, big-science Human Genome Project, which was the big government medical research boondoggle in between its two “decades of the brain” redundant research, and before the equally redundant Obama-Biden “cancer moonshot”).

The lima bean study is a case in point. This research, which was conducted on fruit flies, is clear, simple…and compelling. Let’s take a closer look.

The bean that could boost your lifespan by 10%

The study was published in February in the FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) Journal.[1] As I noted earlier, experimental biology is important because there are studies that can be done more quickly and inexpensively (and often only) in animals rather than humans. And FASEB bands together relatively smaller, neglected fields of science and publishes their findings—which helps gain attention and public support for these types of studies.

(Full disclosure: I had a series of interviews for the FASEB executive director position about 12 years ago. One of the aspects of the job that interested me was that FASEB encompasses many different kinds of scientific research in experimental biology. But I decided it was another bureaucracy in which politics weigh more heavily than science. So I kept up my independent consulting medical practice and my writing, which eventually led to Insiders’ Cures.)

Back to the study, which revealed the life-prolonging properties of prunetin, a type of flavonoid found in plants—particularly lima beans, but also in other legumes and prunes.

Previous studies have detailed prunetin’s anti-inflammatory properties. But this study was designed to go much further. Researchers wanted to determine whether prunetin can also affect lifespan, locomotion, body composition, metabolism, and gut health. What they discovered is impressive.

The researchers found that male fruit flies that consumed prunetin lived an average of three days longer than their counterparts that didn’t receive prunetin. That’s quite amazing when you consider the average lifespan of the fruit fly species the researchers studied is 30 days.

In essence, the prunetin fruit flies lived about 10% longer. Translated into human terms, that means prunetin could potentially increase a 70-year-old man’s lifespan by seven extra years.

So how does prunetin do this? Well, the researchers found that the flies given prunetin had elevated activation of AMPK, an enzyme that helps cells (in both fruit flies and humans) produce energy. They believe the extra AMPK boosted the flies’ fitness levels and improved their body composition.

Researchers found that the male fruit flies that consumed prunetin were able to climb up a test tube a whopping 54% faster than flies not given prunetin. And the prunetin flies had an impressive 36% reduction in glucose levels.

Interestingly, the researchers noted that the female fruit flies given prunetin didn’t have the same longevity results as the males. They think that may be because female fruit flies already live longer than males, so prunetin may actually help the males catch up with the females.

The many reasons you should eat legumes and prunes

The editor of the FASEB Journal said, “This research shows the connection between diet and health is important for all living animals, no matter how complex or simple they are.” He concluded: “It certainly doesn’t hurt to add lima beans to more men’s diets.”

I would have said the same thing had I taken the job at FASEB. I also agree with the editor’s qualification that “there is a lot of work that must be done before we would know if [prunetin] will be useful in humans.” Which means, of course, that we need to keep the funding for experimental biology coming.

After all, previous studies have already shown us that lima beans and other legumes have plenty of lifesaving components.

Researchers have found that legumes are typically higher in protein than other plants (since they host nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their root nodules). And other studies show a link between lima beans and prostate health.

Legumes are also rich in biologically active plant alkaloids, flavonoids, and isoflavones—which have health benefits at the cellular level.

In fact, my favorite plant source for cellular hydration—aspal—comes from the South African legume that has been commonly known as rooibos or red bush.

There is, however, an important thing to keep in mind when it comes to choosing legumes. Soy is a legume, but it’s also a common allergen. And, as I have warned before, almost all soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. You can avoid this by only choosing organic soy.

Along with legumes, prunes—or the more appetizing-sounding “dried plums”—are also packed with prunetin. Additionally, prunes are a very good source of vitamin C. And, of course, they’re a well-known remedy for constipation and improved gut health.

The bottom line is that it’s vital to increase the amount of research on plant compounds. That’s because we typically find that if a plant compound is good for one aspect of your health, it’s also good for other aspects of your health.

After all, that’s the way Nature works. But sadly, most doctors don’t know beans about that.


“The phytoestrogen prunetin affects body composition and improves fitness and lifespan in male Drosophila melanogaster.”  The FASEB Journal 2016; 30(2): 948-958