Researchers from The Ohio State University have discovered new associations between diet and bone health. Assistant professor of human nutrition, Tonya Orchard, led the study which examined data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), the largest study of postmenopausal women's health in U.S. history.
Bone mineral density was compared to the inflammatory components of the women’s diets based on the Dietary Inflammatory Index. The researchers found that during the six year follow-up period of the WHI, the women with the least-inflammatory diets lost less bone density than those with the most-inflammatory diets.
According to Orchard, “This suggests that as women age, healthy diets are impacting their bones.” These findings serve as additional evidence that an anti-inflammatory diet including healthy fats, vegetables, and whole grains can benefit women’s health.
The study’s senior author, Rebecca Jackson, claims that these results add to a growing body of evidence linking increased inflammation with osteoporosis risk.
Jackson explains that "by looking at the full diet rather than individual nutrients, these data provide a foundation for studying how components of the diet might interact to provide benefit and better inform women's health and lifestyle choices."
Inflammatory markers in the blood of the elderly have been correlated to fractures and bone loss in previous studies. This inspired Orchard and her colleagues to investigate the link between bone health and diet, one of the greatest contributors to inflammation.
The WHI consisted of women 50-79 years of age at time of enrollment and ran from 1993-1998. Orchard’s research team looked at the data of 160,191 women and assessed them based on 32 dietary components that were reported to have been ingested by the women for the 3 months prior to enrollment.
Interestingly, women with diets considered least-inflammatory had lower bone density at the onset of the study, but lost less density through the course of the study. One possible explanation is that the women with the less inflammatory diets also have less body mass. The women with more inflammatory diets have more body mass and therefore more bone density to compensate for the extra weight.
Orchard added that "these women with healthier diets didn't lose bone as quickly as those with high-inflammation diets, and this is important because after menopause women see a drastic loss in bone density that contributes to fractures.”
It looks like this is one more piece of evidence that an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fresh vegetables and healthy fats is a smart move if you want to live a long and healthy life.