The Mediterranean diet has long been known to be healthy; data has indicated that people in some countries where it’s popular live the longest. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown one more benefit: it will make your bones stronger.
The olive oil, fruits, vegetables, and fish that are so common in this kind of food regimen reduce the risk of fracture by almost 30 percent. The nutrients the body is getting after consuming these healthy foods may play a significant role in protecting against osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and breakable.
This is consistent with another research, from 2012, that showed that consumption of a Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil for two years is associated with increased serum osteocalcin and P1NP (the preferred marker for bone formation) concentrations, suggesting protective effects on bones.
“There are certain aspects of the Mediterranean Diet that I incorporate into my own diet and recommendations,” Vitamin Shoppe Nutritionist Brian Tanzer, MS, CNS. says. “I believe eating more fruits, vegetables, high fiber whole grains as well as healthy fats i.e. olive oil, along with eating less refined and processed foods should be the foundation for everyone, regardless of how you refer to it.”
The 2012 study focused on men and the recent one examined women. The researchers observed the eating habits of just over 90,000 women who were in generally good health for 16 years. The participants were between 50 and 79 years old and living all over the U.S.
“Although the data is valuable, this was one epidemiological study that relied on, as many do, responses to a questionnaire regarding the diets of participants,” Tanzer says. “All this demonstrates is an association between food intake and risk for hip fracture.”
This type of study does not prove causality and should never be the only consideration when developing nutritional guidelines/recommendations, Tanzer adds. “The most important take away from this study is that the risk for hip fracture was lowest in those women who followed a high quality diet combined with physical activity. Eating real food and being physically active is the key to health and longevity.”
So what are the best foods people can consume to increase their bones’ strength, which becomes even more important as they age. “I think regardless of the source of nutrients, i.e. calcium from dairy vs. vegetables, people must ensure they are meeting their daily requirements for calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K,” Tanzer says. “A combination of high quality dairy foods, vegetables, legumes and other nutrient dense foods will do the trick.”
However, don’t overdo it. There is such thing as “too much of a good thing” and too much calcium is certainly a possibility. “Hypercalcemia is usually caused by specific medical condition,” Tanzer adds. Sometimes it is related to hyperparathyroidism, the parathyroid gland controls calcium levels in the blood.
“Most average healthy people don’t have elevated blood calcium,” he adds. “If you rely on food as your source of calcium, and then supplements to help fill nutritional gaps in your diet, one need not worry about getting too much calcium.”