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Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Bone Loss in Osteoporosis


A European study found eating a Mediterranean diet, which has been associated with an array of mental and physical health advantages, could slow bone loss in people with osteoporosis. The study is the first pan-European clinical trial examining the bone-protective effects of the eating plan on senior adults.

Bone tissue undergoes a continuous cycle that involves the breakdown of old bone and the formation of new bone. From birth through early adulthood, formation occurs at a higher rate than breakdown. Around age 30, the reverse occurs, with resorption gradually outpacing formation. After menopause, the rate of resorption increases, which makes women more susceptible to developing osteoporosis, the condition where bones become weak, brittle and fracture-prone. Some fractures, such as those affecting the hip, can be dangerous and life threatening.

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The recent clinical trial examined more than 1,000 participants aged 65 to 79 from five centers in Europe: Italy, France, Poland, the U.K. and the Netherlands. The individuals were randomized into two groups: one that consumed the Mediterranean diet and a control group that didnt. Bone density was measured at the studys onset and after 12 months.

Participants on the diet ate plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fish. They also consumed small quantities of meat and dairy products, as well as moderate amounts of alcohol. In addition, they were given a small vitamin D supplement to even out the effects of varying levels of sunlight available in different countries.

Mediterranean Diet May Help Protect Against Hip Fractures

Analysis showed the Mediterranean diet had no detectible effect on the participants with normal bone density; however, it proved beneficial for those with osteoporosis. Seniors in the control group suffered age-related declines in bone density. In contrast, those in the diet group having osteoporosis experienced a significant reduction of the loss of bone density in a critically important area the femoral neck. This is the part of the thighbone that connects the shaft to its head, which fits into the hipbone to form the ball-and-socket hip joint.

“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, said U.K. lead author Professor Susan Fairweather-Tait, from the University of East Anglias Norwich Medical School.

“Bone takes a long time to form, so the 12-month trial, although one of the longest to date, was still a relatively short time frame 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.”

Next, the researchers want to conduct a similar trial in patients with osteoporosis to confirm the results and determine if the beneficial effects can be seen in other parts of the body. If bone loss could be reduced through diet, it would be a helpful adjunct to osteoporosis medications, which come with serious side effects.

In the meantime, there is no reason why anyone concerned about bone loss shouldnt think about following the Mediterranean diet, said the researchers. Because the quality of every aspect of health depends, in part, on the quality of the diet consumed, it makes sense that this highly nutritious diet showed promise for osteoporosis.

“A Mediterranean diet is already proven to have other health benefits, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer,” said Fairweather-Tait. “So there’s no downside to adopting such a diet, whether you have osteoporosis or not.”

The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


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