Thursday, 12 July 2018

A Mediterranean Diet May Help People With Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bone loss is so severe that it increases the risk of a fracture. Bone mass naturally decreases as we age, but osteoporosis is not an inevitable result of this process. It’s a common disorder, however. For those who have the condition, slowing the rate of bone loss or even better building bone would be very helpful. Some interesting research from the University of East Anglia in Britain has shown that a Mediterranean diet appears to reduce bone loss in people who have osteoporosis.

The Mediterranean Diet
G.steph.rocket, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 License

Functions and Activities of Bone

Bone forms the skeleton that enables us to move and protects our organs. It also stores minerals (including calcium and phosphorus) and releases them when necessary. Red bone marrow makes and releases our blood cells. Yellow bone marrow stores and releases lipids.

Bone is not a static material. It’s continually being made and broken down according to stresses on the skeleton and the chemical needs of the body. Osteoblasts are cells that build bone; osteoclasts are cells that break it down. The stimulation of these cells and control of bone deposition and breakdown is a complex process affected by many factors. Some important facts about the process are already known, however.

As we age, the breakdown of bone tends to exceed its deposition. Exercises to strengthen bones can help to keep them strong. If you already have osteoporosis, make sure that you check with your doctor before doing strength-building exercises. Some of them can do more harm than good for someone who has the condition. Eating a nutritious diet that includes sufficient calcium and vitamin D is another step that can be helpful for building bone. Calcium is an essential component of bones. Vitamin D is needed in order for calcium to be absorbed through the lining of the intestine.

Common locations and effects of osteoporosis
Bruce Blaus, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 license

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is the traditional one followed by people in the Mediterranean region. In its earlier form it consisted of unrefined grains, legumes or pulses, vegetables, fruits, fish, some chicken, some cheese, yogurt, and eggs, nuts, olive oil, and moderate amounts of wine. Today the diet is often modified by modern food choices to a greater or lesser extent, even in the region where it originated. With the exception of the wine, which is controversial with respect to its effects on our health, the Mediterranean diet closely resembles ones often recommended by nutritionists.

The Research Study

1142 people between the ages of 65 and 79 participated in the study. Half of the subjects followed a Mediterranean diet and the others didn’t. People were assigned to the groups on a random basis. The special diet followed by people in the study was “rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, unrefined cereals, olive oil, and fish”. The bone density of subjects was measured at the start of the study and after twelve months.

The researchers found that the diet had no noticeable effect on the bones of people with normal bone density. The density decreased by the amount expected over a twelve-month interval. In the people who had osteoporosis at the start of the study and who followed the Mediterranean diet, however, the density of the femoral neck increased over the twelve-month period. The femoral neck is located in the hip joint and is a common site of fracture in people with osteoporosis. On the other hand, the diet had no effect on the density in the lumbar region or at other sites. In people with osteoporosis who didn't follow the Mediterranean diet, density of the femoral neck decreased.

The researchers say that they were impressed that a noticeable effect on bone density could be found after only twelve months. They would like to see the results of a longer experiment in order to discover more about how it affects both people with osteoporosis and those without and to see if other sites in the body are eventually influenced by the diet.

A Healthy Diet

As the researchers say, the Mediterranean diet has already been shown to have health
benefits and to reduce the risk of some serious diseases, including cardiovascular problems, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. It seems like a good idea to follow it even before we find out more about its effects on bone density. The only precaution that a person starting the diet should take is to do some research about the health effects of drinking wine. The latest studies suggest that it has harmful effects as well as potentially helpful ones.


Osteoporosis facts from Osteoporosis Canada

Mediterranean diet information from the Mayo Clinic

The Mediterranean Diet and bone loss from the ScienceDaily news service

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