Mediterranean Diet May Help Protect Bones in Postmenopausal Women

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March 21, 2018 -- Following a Mediterranean diet may be good for bone mineral density and muscle mass in women after menopause, a small study says.

"We found that the Mediterranean diet could be a useful nonmedical strategy for the prevention of osteoporosis and fractures in postmenopausal women," said Thais Rasia Silva, PhD, at Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre, Brazil. She reported the findings at ENDO 2018: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting.

Although many benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been reported, few studies have looked at the effects of it on body composition after menopause, Silva said at a press conference.

This is important because women in menopause lose bone mass and their risk of osteoporosis goes up, she said.

Study Details

Silva and her team recruited 103 healthy women from southern Brazil who were an average age of 55 and had gone through menopause roughly 5 years earlier. They excluded anyone currently taking hormone replacement therapy.

They measured the women's bone mineral density, body fat, muscle mass, resting metabolic rate, and physical activity. The women filled out a questionnaire on what they ate.

The researchers looked at how much the women ate of the following: vegetables and legumes, fruits, cereals, fish, alcohol, olive oil, dairy products, and meat. These foods are part of the Mediterranean diet, and women who ate more of these foods were given a higher Mediterranean diet score than women who ate less of them.

The researchers found that a higher score was linked to better muscle mass and greater spine bone mineral density.

Researchers accounted for the use of hormone replacement therapy before the study, smoking, and physical activity.

How Does the Diet Affect Muscles, Bones?

Poli Mara Spritzer, MD, PhD, one of the study authors, cautioned that this study did not compare the Mediterranean diet with any other diet. More studies are needed to clarify the effect of the diet on body composition during menopause, she said. Her team is doing further studies.

"We believe protein in the diet, such as fish, can increase muscle mass, and that antioxidants play a role,” said Spritzer, also of the Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre.

Silva said new evidence suggests that a Mediterranean diet combined with other healthy lifestyle habits may be a useful nondrug therapy to help prevent osteoporosis and broken bones after menopause.

Postmenopausal women, especially those with low bone mass, should ask their doctor whether they should try eating a Mediterranean diet, she said.