Anti-inflammatory diets – high in vegetables, fruits, fish and whole grains – could boost bone health and prevent fractures in some women, a new study from The Ohio State University suggests.
Researchers examined data from the landmark Women's Health Initiative to compare levels of inflammatory elements in the diet to bone mineral density and fractures and found new associations between food and bone health. The inflammatory potential of women’s diets was analyzed using a scoring system called the Dietary Inflammatory Index.
Women with the least-inflammatory diets lost less bone density during the six-year follow-up period than their peers with the most-inflammatory diets. This was even though they started off with lower bone density overall.
Furthermore, diets with low inflammatory potential appeared to correspond to lower risk of hip fracture among post-menopausal white women who were younger than 63.
Previous studies have connected high levels of inflammatory markers in the blood to bone loss and to fractures in older women and men, which prompted the researchers to see if dietary choices that contribute to inflammation also play a role.
About the study, The Women’s Health Initiative
Dietary information as well as data on bone density and fracture were collected from a large group of the participants in the Women's Health Initiative, the largest study of postmenopausal women's health undertaken in U.S. history.
Participants in the WHI were 50 to 79 when they enrolled in the study of prevention and control of common diseases impacting older women.
For the new analysis -- the first of its kind -- the research team looked at dietary data from 160,191 women and assigned inflammation scores based on 32 food components that the women reported consuming in the three months prior to their enrollment.
The researchers used bone-mineral-density data from a subset of 10,290 women. Fracture data was collected for the entire study group.
Inflammatory diets increased fracture risk in some women
They found a link only between high-inflammatory diets and fracture in younger white women. Higher scores were associated with an almost 50 percent larger risk of hip fracture in Caucasian women younger than 63, compared with the risk for women in the group with the lowest inflammatory scores.
This suggests that a high-quality, less-inflammatory diet may be especially important in reducing hip fracture risk in younger women.
Anti-inflammatory diets tied to less bone loss
Women with the least-inflammatory diets had lower bone mineral density overall at the start of the study, but lost less bone than their high-inflammation peers. The lower bone density to start could be because women with healthier diets are more likely to be of a smaller build, the researchers said. Larger people have higher bone density to support their larger frames.
The women with healthier diets didn't lose bone as quickly as those with high-inflammation diets, which is important because after menopause women see a drastic loss in bone density that contributes to fractures.
Because the study was observational, it's not possible to definitively link dietary patterns and bone health and fracture risk.
Even so, the new findings support a growing body of evidence that factors that increase inflammation can increase osteoporosis risk.
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