X-ray of the hip and pelvis of an 83 year old woman with a history of degnerative joint disease. The x-ray shows severe DJD of the hip as well as a fracture of the neck of the femur.

Hip fractures are a serious health concern, with approximately 1.6 million cases worldwide reported annually. Nearly 75 percent of all hip fractures occur in women. Hip fractures are often associated with loss in quality of life, chronic pain, reduced mobility, disability, and an increasing degree of dependence, with 10-20 percent of cases needing long-term nursing care.

While considerable research has been conducted to relate single nutrients to bone health, results still remain inconsistent. Many researchers now agree that nutrients act in synergy within whole dietary patterns rather than as isolated nutrients. Therefore, it is of interest to establish if dietary patterns can assist in risk reduction for health concerns such as hip fractures.

In a recent study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, 2016, 90,014 participants, taken from the 93,676 participants in the original Women’s Health Initiative observational study, were evaluated for incidence of total fractures and hip fractures. Women in the study ranged from 50-79 years, there was a median follow-up 15.9 years, and dietary scores were assessed from food frequency questionnaires for adherence to a number of healthy dietary patterns, the Mediterranean diet being one of them. The authors report that, “Diet quality and adherence were assessed by scores on the alternate Mediterranean Diet (aMED), a 9-category measure of adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern.”

The analysis showed there were 2,121 cases of hip fracture and 28,718 total fractures. No association was found between total fracture and the aMed score. However, women scoring in the highest quintile aMed score had a significantly lower risk of hip fracture, the absolute risk reduction was 0.29 percent. No significant results were found for any of the other dietary patterns assessed.

The authors concluded, “Higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk for hip fractures. These results support that a healthy dietary pattern may play a role in maintaining bone health in postmenopausal women.”

Being the first results of their kind and considering the large sample size evaluated, these results do seem like a promising lifestyle strategy for risk reduction of hip fractures. However, because this is only an observational study, more research will need to be conducted to confirm the association.

Still, regardless of more research being needed, because the Mediterranean diet has been shown to be incredibly beneficial for many health conditions, there is certainly no harm in health practitioners using it as a treatment strategy for those at risk of, or as adjunct to treatment for hip fractures.

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