Bone loss among menopausal and post-menopausal women has long caused problems for many. In general, women are encouraged to eat diets rich in calcium, Vitamin D, and other bone-enhancing nutrients in order to reduce their chances of getting osteoporosis and all the problems that this entails later in life.

Bone loss among menopausal and post-menopausal women has long caused problems for many. In general, women are encouraged to eat diets rich in calcium, Vitamin D, and other bone-enhancing nutrients in order to reduce their chances of getting osteoporosis and all the problems that this entails later in life. A new study [1] suggests that a diet rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients may help to improve bone health for females, and reduce the bone-mass loss associated with the menopause.

Menopause And Bone Density

Everyone, whatever their gender, loses bone density as they grow older. Loss of bone density can lead to osteoporosis - a weakening of the bones from which an estimated 53 million suffer from in the United States alone [2]. Osteoporosis can be managed, but it does put sufferers of greater risk of developing fractures, and has to be a definite consideration when preparing for things like surgery [3] or sporting endeavors. As osteoporosis is largely symptom-free until the weakening becomes apparent through fractures and so on, many do not realise that they have it. Women can, without realising it, lose up to 20% of their bone mass in the first few years following the menopause. This is because the female hormone estrogen protects bone strength. When estrogen levels deplete during the menopause, the bones lose much of their protection, and degrade as a consequence. Of course, there are established ways to keep bones as healthy as possible for as long as possible - including exercise and taking bone-healthy nutritional supplements. However, the new study suggests than an anti-inflammatory diet may also have a role to play in protecting bones as we age.

The Study

The team - from Ohio State University - studied data gathered by the Women’s Health Initiative. Specifically, they looked at data pertaining to levels of anti-inflammatory nutrients in the diet of participants, and compared it to both BMD (Bone Mineral Density) and incidences of fracture. Data was gathered for six years, at the end of which they gathered their results.

Caucasian Inflammation

Interestingly, the team discovered that there was a link between an inflammatory diet and heightened risk of osteoporosis and fracture - but the results seemed mostly to apply to the Caucasian women in the study. Higher scores on the Dietary Inflammatory Index [4] in the diet of younger white women indicated a much higher risk of hip fracture for these participants than it did for participants of other ethnicities. Overall, higher DII scores tended to increase this risk only for younger Caucasian women - although findings relating to a lower DII were rather more across the board.

Low-Inflammatory Diets Better For Bones

Overall, the study seems to indicate that participants with less inflammatory diets - i.e. participants who ate diets rich in fruits and vegetables [5], and low in ‘bad’ fats - had a greater bone density and were at less risk of developing fractures than those who did not follow a low-inflammatory diet. The much-vaunted ‘Meditteranean Diet’, with its salads and fruits, was considered one of the most effective diets when it came to bone density. This has interesting implications for those working with osteoporosis patients,or in the field of postmenopausal health. It also raises certain questions about the role of inflammation in bone loss, particularly as we get older. Follow up studies may be able to look more closely into this phenomenon. In the meantime, however, we can advise patients - particularly Caucasian females - to follow an anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet as much as is possible.

[1] Tonya Orchard, Vedat Yildiz, Susan E Steck, James R Hebert, Yunsheng Ma, Jane A Cauley, Wenjun Li, Yasmin Mossaver-Rahmani, Karen C Johnson, Maryam Sattari, Meryl LeBoff, Jean Wactawski-Wende, Rebecca D Jackson, “Dietary Inflammatory Index, Bone Mineral Density, and Risk Of Fracture in Postmenopausal Women: Results From the Women’s Health Initiative”, Journal Of Bone And Mineral Density, Feb 2017

[2] NIH Osteoporosis And Related Bone Diseases, “Handout on Health: Osteoporosis”, Feb 2016

[3] Quotezone, “Surgery protection”

[4] Susan E Steck, Nitin Shavappa, Fred K Tabung, Brooke E Harmon, Michael D Wirth, Thomas G Hurley, James R Herbert, “The Dietary Inflammatory Index: A New Tool for Assessing Diet Quality Based On Inflammatory Potential”, Academy Of Nutrition And Dietics, 2014

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