Can osteoporosis be reversed with diet?

A 12-month study of over 1 000 people aimed to answer this question – can osteoporosis be reversed with diet?

Following a Mediterranean-type diet could reduce bone loss in people with osteoporosis.

This is according to a new University of East Anglia study of more than 1 000 people, aged between 65 and 79.

For the trial, participants were divided into a group which followed a Mediterranean diet and a control group which did not.

Those following the Mediterranean diet increased their intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, unrefined cereals, olive oil, and fish, consumed small quantities of dairy products and meat and had a moderate alcohol intake.

Bone density was measured at the start and after 12 months.

Increase in hip bone density

People in the control group continued to see the usual age-related decrease in bone density.

Those following the Mediterranean diet saw an equivalent increase in bone density in one part of the body – the femoral neck. This is the area which connects the shaft of the thigh bone to its rounded head, which fits into the hip joint.

“This is a particularly sensitive area for osteoporosis as loss of bone in the femoral neck is often the cause of hip fracture, which is common in elderly people with osteoporosis,” explains UK study lead Prof Susan Fairweather-Tait, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School

“Bone takes a long time to form, so the 12-month trial, although one of the longest to date, was still a relatively short time frame to show an impact. So the fact we were able to see a marked difference between the groups even in just this one area is significant.”

The researchers would now like to see a similar and longer trial in patients with osteoporosis. In the meantime, there are so many reasons to try the Mediterranean diet.

“A Mediterranean diet is already proven to have other health benefits, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer,” says Prof Fairweather-Tait. “So, there’s no downside to adopting such a diet, whether you have osteoporosis or not.”