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Diet with lots of olive oil, fruit and fish protects against osteoporosis

In addition to calcium and vitamin D, there are other nutritional factors that help keep bones strong. It seems that the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in olive oil, fish and fruit, can also help maintain bone mass. Italian researchers at the Federico II University Medical School of Napoli wrote about this in the Journal of Translational Medicine.


The researchers measured the strength of the bones of 418 adults [average age 50] using ultrasound scanning. This method is still new and not all experts agree about its reliability.

The researchers then gave the participants' bone density a T-score. A T-score between +1 and -1 indicates the density is fine; a T-score between -1 and -2.5 indicates osteopenia, a preliminary stage of osteoporosis. T-scores lower than -2.5 indicate osteoporosis.

The researchers used questionnaires to determine the extent to which the participants' diet resembled the Mediterranean diet. This was to a large extent the case for almost 30 percent of the participants [High adherence].

Diet with lots of olive oil, fruit and fish protects against osteoporosis

Diet with lots of olive oil, fruit and fish protects against osteoporosis

The more Mediterranean their diet, the higher the bone density of the participants.

Diet with lots of olive oil, fruit and fish protects against osteoporosis

Diet with lots of olive oil, fruit and fish protects against osteoporosis

The consumption of extra virgin olive oil [EVOO], fish and fruit in particular was associated with relatively high bone density.

For osteoporosis endocrinologists advise a diet containing sufficient calcium - about one gram a day - and supplements containing at least 20 mcg [800 IU] vitamin D3 daily. The Italian study would seem to suggest however that there are more nutritional factors that offer protection against osteoporosis.

"The protective role of the Mediterranean diet against several diseases, such as cardiovascular, neoplastic, neurodegenerative and other chronic diseases is now well defined," the researchers wrote. "One of the most accredited hypothesis for this association suggests that the protective effects of the Mediterranean diet are mediated by the anti-inflammatory properties of beneficial compounds, like polyphenols, [BMC Med. 2014 May 13;12:77.] that are largely present in the Mediterranean foods such as vegetables and fruits."

"In particular, extra virgin olive oil is one of components of the Mediterranean diet and represents the main edible fat. Its increased consumption is reflected in the high monounsaturated to saturated fatty acid and has been found to be associated with a reduced prevalence of risk factors for major chronic inflammatory diseases included osteoporosis." [Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan 13. pii: S0261-5614(17)30006-7.] [Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Nov;65(7):834-40.]

"Adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been associated with higher bone mass density and has been shown to prevent bone disease." [Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(5):1189-96.] [Nutr Hosp. 2015 Jun 1;31(6):2523-32.] [Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:245-52.] [Nutr Hosp. 2014 May 1;29(5):989-96.]

"This work demonstrates a positive correlation between bone health status and adherence to the Mediterranean diet," the researchers summarised. "The results suggest that higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet plays a beneficial role in bone health and confirm that a specific dietary approach, such as the Mediterranean diet, can represent an important modifiable environmental factor for osteoporosis' prevention."

"We are aware that the results reported here are preliminary. Large-scale studies are required to clarify the real effect of the Mediterranean diet and of its individual components on bone health and on osteoporosis' prevention."

J Transl Med. 2017 Apr 24;15(1):81.

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