The Mediterranean diet, which focuses on a balanced diet with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, can help preserve bone strength as we age. A new study from Ohio State University provides more support for the concept that “food is medicine.”
The research focused on the effect of anti-inflammatory diets on bone fractures. Anti-inflammatory diets are exactly the type of diets nutritionists like me recommend. They include a healthy balanced diet of lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins like beans and nuts, fatty fish, and fresh herbs and spices.
Previous studies have connected high levels of inflammatory markers in the blood to bone loss and to fractures in older women and men. Tonya Orchard, an assistant professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University, and her colleagues wondered what they’d find if they took one more step back and looked at whether dietary choices contribute to inflammation in the body.
New Study Shows that the Mediterranean Diet Strengthens Bones
Researchers at Ohio State University examined data from the landmark Women’s Health Initiative to compare levels of inflammatory elements in the diet to bone mineral density and fractures and found new associations between food and bone health. The study appears in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.
How the Study on Diets like the Mediterranean Diet Was Conducted
• The Dietary Inflammatory Index is a rating system that assesses the quality of diets from maximally to minimally inflammatory based on nutrients consumed.
• The study used that index, as well as data on bone density and fracture, determine whether diet affected bone health.
• Data were collected from a large group of the participants in the Women’s Health Initiative, which is the largest study of postmenopausal women’s health undertaken in U.S. history. Its purpose is to study of prevention and control of common diseases impacting older women.
• The Participants in the study ranged in age from 50 to 79 years old when they enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative. Enrollment ran from 1993 to 1998.
• For this analysis, the research team looked at dietary data from 160,191 women. They assigned inflammation scores based on 32 food components that the women reported consuming in the three months prior to their enrollment.
• The researchers used bone-mineral-density data from a subset of 10,290 women. Fracture data was collected for the entire study group.
Findings of the Study of Diets like the Mediterranean Diet
• Women with the least-inflammatory diets had lower bone mineral density overall at the start of the study, but lost less bone than their high-inflammation peers, the researchers found.
• The lower bone density to start could be because women with healthier diets are more likely to be of a smaller build, Orchard said. Larger people have higher bone density to support their larger frames.
• Women with the least-inflammatory diets, based on the Dietary Inflammatory Index, lost less bone density during the six-year follow-up period than their peers with the most-inflammatory diets.
• Furthermore, diets with low inflammatory potential appeared to correspond to lower risk of hip fracture among post-menopausal white women younger than 63.
• The study found that “These women with healthier diets didn’t lose bone as quickly as those with high-inflammation diets, and this is important because after menopause women see a drastic loss in bone density that contributes to fractures.”
• According to Tonya Orchard, the findings suggest that women’s bone health could benefit when they choose a diet higher in beneficial fats, plants and whole grains.
“This suggests that as women age, healthy diets are impacting their bones,” Orchard said. “I think this gives us yet another reason to support the recommendations for a healthy diet in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”
Rebecca Jackson, the study’s senior author and director of Ohio State’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science, said the new findings support a growing body of evidence that factors that increase inflammation can increase osteoporosis risk. “By looking at the full diet rather than individual nutrients, these data provide a foundation for studying how components of the diet might interact to provide benefit and better inform women’s health and lifestyle choices.”
Click here to read the full analysis of the new study showing that anti-inflammatory diets like the Mediterranean Diet ca reduce the risk of bone fractures.