Monday 13 August 2018

Does a Mediterranean diet strengthen our bones?

Does a Mediterranean diet strengthen our bones?
Spending the winter in the Mediterranean region is becoming increasingly popular amongst the elderly. For this group, adopting the Mediterranean diet isn’t such a bad idea either. It was already known that this reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, but a new study reveals that it can also reduce bone loss in people with osteoporosis.


In the past, higher dietary compliance with the Mediterranean diet had already been associated with a reduced risk of hip fractures. Recently, the University of Bologna conducted the first long-term study (twelve months), in which the impact of a Mediterranean diet on the health of the bones of 1,142 volunteers aged between 65 and 79 years was investigated. Participants, recruited at centres in Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Poland and France, were randomised into a group that followed a Mediterranean diet and a control group. Because of its positive effect on bone formation, the difference in sunlight was compensated by vitamin D3 supplements. 
The participants who followed the Mediterranean diet increased their intake of fruit, vegetables, nuts, unrefined grains, olive oil and fish. Consumption of dairy and meat was reduced and alcohol consumption was moderated. They were given foods like olive oil and wholemeal pasta*, to encourage them to stick to the diet. The diet was also adjusted to individuals’ personal preferences. 

*Based on our vision, we recommend eating fewer or no cereal products.


At the start and end of the study, the bone density of the femoral neck of the volunteers was measured. The femoral neck is located in the hip joint below the head of the femur and is susceptible to osteoporosis. Loss of this tissue leads to an increased risk of a hip fracture. At the start of the study, just under ten percent of the participants were found to have osteoporosis. 
In participants with normal bone density, during this relatively short space of time, the diet was found to have had no effect. Although the study lasted longer than previous studies, it has to be taken into account that it takes a long time to form bone tissue. However, in the control group with osteoporosis, the usual age-related reduction in bone density occurred in the neck of the femur, whilst this was not the case in the diet group. 



The Mediterranean diet can reduce the loss of hipbone within just 12 months.If osteoporosis could be prevented by diet, this could be used in addition to treatments with medicine, which has serious side effects. Considering the other known positive attributes of the Mediterranean diet, this is worth a try. 


Still to be discovered

In terms of the slower age-related loss of bone density, it will not be as easy to notice a difference. An effect could possibly also have been found in this group in a study that had lasted longer. Furthermore, the sub-group with osteoporosis was relatively small. A new study that lasts longer, with a larger study group, is needed.Possible causes of the positive effect could also be investigated. Consider, for example, the effects of the phenol compounds of first press olive oil, reducing the consumption of salt or the consumption of vitamin K in the food.