How a Mediterranean diet could reduce osteoporosis

How a Mediterranean diet could reduce osteoporosis
Those following the diet increased their intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, unrefined cereals, olive oil, and fish

According to new research from the University of East Anglia, UK, eating a Mediterranean diet could help reduce bone loss in people with osteoporosis.

The study is the first long-term, pan-European clinical trial looking at the impact of a Mediterranean diet on bone health in older adults.

In a new study, researchers have suggested that sticking to a Mediterranean diet can help reduce hip bone loss within just 12 months. The rich diet includes:

  • Fruit;
  • Vegetables;
  • Nuts;
  • Unrefined cereals;
  • Olive oil; and
  • Fish.

What were the research outcomes?

Around 1,000 people aged between 65 and 79 took part in the trial, and volunteers were randomised into two groups, one that followed the Mediterranean diet and a control group that did not.

After the 12 months, the bone density of those who took part was measured and the researchers found that the diet had no discernible impact on participants with normal bone density, but it did have an effect of those with osteoporosis.

People in the control group continued to see the usual age-related decrease in bone density, but those following the diet saw an equivalent increase in bone density in one part of the body – the femoral neck.

This is the area which connects the shaft of the thigh bone to its rounded head, which fits in the hip joint.

UK study lead Professor Susan Fairweather-Tait, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “This is a particularly sensitive area for osteoporosis as loss of bone in the femoral neck is often the cause of hip fracture, which is common in elderly people with osteoporosis.

“Bone takes a long time to form, so the 12-month trial, although one of the longest to date, was still a relatively short timeframe to show an impact. So, the fact we were able to see a marked difference between the groups even in just this one area is significant.”

How was the research conducted?

The EU-funded trial, led by the University of Bologna, was completed by 1,142 participants recruited across five centres in Italy, the UK, the Netherlands, Poland and France.

Those following the diet increased their intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, unrefined cereals, olive oil, and fish, consumed small quantities of dairy products and meat, and had a moderate alcohol intake.

People in this group were provided with foods such as olive oil and wholemeal pasta, to encourage them to stick to the diet. They were also given a small vitamin D supplement, to even out the effects of different levels of sunlight between the participating countries.

According to a report, at the start and end of the trial, blood samples were taken to check for circulating biomarkers. Bone density was measured in over 600 participants across both groups. Of these participants, just under 10% were found to have osteoporosis at the start of the study.

Fairweather-Tait concluded: “A Mediterranean diet is already proven to have other health benefits, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

“So there’s no downside to adopting such a diet, whether you have osteoporosis or not.”


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