Med Diet Tied to Higher Bone Mass, Muscle Density After Menopause

A study found adherence to the Mediterranean diet helps protect women from some of the harmful health consequences of menopause.

Apr. 12, 2018
By Mary West

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While the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) has been linked to a lower inci­dence of can­cer, heart dis­ease and dia­betes, few stud­ies have explored its effects on menopausal mal­adies. Brazilian researchers dis­cov­ered it reduced the risk of the bone-thin­ning dis­ease called osteo­poro­sis, as well as the declin­ing mus­cle strength that plague older women.

Postmenopausal women, espe­cially those with low bone mass, should ask their doc­tor whether they might ben­e­fit from con­sum­ing this dietary pat­tern.- Thais Rasia Silva, Researcher

We found that the Mediterranean diet could be a use­ful non­med­ical strat­egy for the pre­ven­tion of osteo­poro­sis and frac­tures in post­menopausal women,” said lead inves­ti­ga­tor Thais Rasia Silva. Postmenopausal women, espe­cially those with low bone mass, should ask their doc­tor whether they might ben­e­fit from con­sum­ing this dietary pat­tern.”

The MedDiet is com­prised of a plen­ti­ful intake of fruits and veg­eta­bles, olive oil, pota­toes, grains and seeds; a mod­er­ately high con­sump­tion of fish; and a low intake of red meat and sat­u­rated fat. Moderate, reg­u­lar red wine con­sump­tion is also a part of the eat­ing plan.

According to Silva, research­ing the diet’s effects on post­menopausal women is impor­tant because reduced estro­gen pro­duc­tion increases the loss of bone mass, which raises the risk of frac­tures. Another con­se­quence of menopause and aging is dimin­ish­ing skele­tal mus­cle mass, a prob­lem that decreases strength and con­tributes to ill­ness and higher death rates.

The par­tic­i­pants in the study were 103 healthy women from Brazil of an aver­age age of 55 who had expe­ri­enced menopause an aver­age of 5.5 years ear­lier. All the women under­went tests to mea­sure their bone min­eral den­sity, mus­cle mass and total body fat. They also com­pleted food fre­quency ques­tion­naires of what they had eaten in the pre­vi­ous month.


Analysis of the data showed those who adhered more closely to the MedDiet had a sig­nif­i­cantly higher bone min­eral den­sity at the lum­bar spine, along with greater mus­cle mass, said Silva. The appar­ent link was inde­pen­dent of their cur­rent level of phys­i­cal activ­ity, prior smok­ing behav­ior or whether they were pre­vi­ously tak­ing hor­mone replace­ment med­ica­tions.

You need suf­fi­cient cal­cium to strengthen your bones and vit­a­min D to help your body absorb cal­cium. Foods con­tain­ing these nutri­ents are sta­ples of the MedDiet,” nutri­tion­ist Vanessa Rissetto told Olive Oil Times.

For exam­ple, beans con­tain 191 mg of cal­cium per cup, and green leafy veg­eta­bles like broc­coli and kale con­tain 43 grams per cup. Vitamin D food sources in this eat­ing plan include eggs and oily fish, such as salmon.”

An addi­tional find­ing was that the par­tic­i­pants with high MedDiet adher­ence had approx­i­mately five more years of school atten­dance than those with low adher­ence.

It is per­ti­nent to men­tion this higher edu­ca­tion level because evi­dence indi­cates that diet qual­ity may be linked to edu­ca­tion and plays an impor­tant role in deter­min­ing food con­sump­tion behav­ior in Brazil and also in other stud­ies in a Mediterranean region,” said Silva.

The study was pre­sented at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meet­ing in Chicago, Ill.

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