A Mediterranean diet — high in fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, grains, fish and olive oil, and low in meat and dairy foods — has long been associated with good health, including a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and certain other chronic diseases. Now, a new study suggests it’s also beneficial for older women’s bones and muscles.
The findings were presented last week at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meeting in Chicago.
Researchers conducted their study in 103 healthy women from southern Brazil, who had an average age of 55 and who had gone through menopause 5.5 years earlier, on average. All women underwent bone scans to measure their bone mineral density, total body fat and appendicular lean mass, which was used to estimate skeletal muscle mass. The subjects also completed a food questionnaire about what they ate in the past month.
The results revealed higher bone mineral density and muscle mass in postmenopausal women who adhered to a Mediterranean diet than in those who did not. This association was independent of whether the women used hormone therapy previously, whether they had smoked, or their current level of physical activity, explained the study’s lead investigator, Thais Rasia Silva, Ph.D., a postdoctoral student at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.
Typically, the decline in oestrogen at menopause speeds a woman’s loss of bone mass, leading to an increased risk of osteoporosis. Menopause and ageing also tend to reduce muscle mass.
“We found that the Mediterranean diet could be a useful non-medical strategy for the prevention of osteoporosis and fractures in postmenopausal women,” Silva said.
Given the many health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, Silva added, “Postmenopausal women, especially those with low bone mass, should ask their doctor whether they might benefit from consuming this dietary pattern.”