The secret to strong bones? Eating a Mediterranean diet

Daily Mail — Women who eat a Mediterranean diet rich in fruit, vegetables, fish and whole grains are less likely to suffer hip fractures, research shows.

Scientists believe the nutrients in the foods may protect against the bone-thinning condition osteoporosis.

The study, which included 90,014 women, found those who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet were 29 per cent less at risk of hip fractures.

The authors say doctors should routinely offer women simple dietary advice on eating more fruit and veg when they enter the menopause – and the risk of osteoporosis increases.

Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually – or one every three seconds.

Figures show one in three women over 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will one in five men.

Many of these include hip fractures which are so serious and disabling that a third of patients die within 12 months.

Researchers at the University of Wurzburg, in Bavaria, Germany, looked at the records of American women whose average age was 64.

They had all completed a detailed questionnaire on their eating habits and from this, the scientists gave them a score depending on how similar their diet was to a Mediterranean one.

This consists of large amounts of fruit, veg, pulses, fish and olive oil but is low in red meat and butter.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, showed women whose eating habits were most closely aligned to the Mediterranean diet were 29 per cent less likely to suffer a hip fracture over the next 16 years.

Lead author Dr Bernhard Haring said: ‘High diet quality characterized by adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk for hip fractures.

‘These results support the notion that following a healthy dietary pattern may play a role in the maintenance of bone health in postmenopausal women.’

The findings back up several other studies which have all shown that a Mediterranean diet strengthens the bones.

In 2012, for example, research involving 127 elderly Spanish men found those who followed the diet had higher levels of the protein osteocalcin, which encourages bone formation.

Numerous other studies have highlighted the overall health benefits of the Mediterranean diet including preventing cancer, heart disease and dementia.

Scientists are unclear about the exact process but believe the same nutrients which protect against these long-term illnesses also strengthen the bones.

Dr Walter Willet, of the Harvard Chan School of Public Health in Boston, is so convinced of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet he believes it should be routinely prescribed by doctors.

In an editorial published alongside the study, he said: ‘At the present time, the US health care system almost entirely ignores nutrition in favor of pharmacology and is hugely expensive and ineffective compared with the systems in other countries.

‘Integration of the Mediterranean diet and related dietary patterns into medical practice, hospitals, schools and other institutions has the potential to improve wellbeing.’

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