Everyone tends to lose bone density with age—in fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that more than 53 million people in the United States have osteoporosis or increased risk or low bone density already. Older women, especially those who’ve already gone through menopause, are at higher risk.
Experts used to think osteoporosis was a natural part of aging. Today, they agree it can and should be prevented. Fortunately, diet can play a huge role in stopping bone loss. New research from the Ohio State University suggests a diet rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients may reduce bone loss. The study’s findings were published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Density.
Anti-inflammatory diets are typically rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and by some recommendations, fish, although many others recommend caution around fish consumption both due to overfishing as well as contaminants. It’s entirely possible to eat a highly effective anti-inflammatory plant-based diet, and your bones will thank you!
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a is a condition of decreased bone density. It is the leading cause of bone fractures in postmenopausal women and the elderly. Commonly bone fractures occur in the hip, wrist, and spine. Hip fractures pose the greatest risk, as they require hospitalization and surgery and a long rehabilitation.
Diet and Bone Loss
The researchers analyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative study and compared levels of inflammatory nutrients in women’s diets with their bone mineral density levels and incidents of broken bones. The Women’s Health Initiative, conducted between 1993 and 1998, is the largest health study of postmenopausal women ever conducted in the U.S.
The study found a link between highly inflammatory diets and fracture—but only in younger Caucasian women.
- Diets higher in inflammatory foods correlated with an almost 50% higher risk of hip fracture in white women younger than 63 years old.
- Women with the least inflammatory diets lost less bone density during the 6-year period than those with inflammatory diets, even though they had overall lower bone mass when they enrolled in the study.
As Women Age, Diet Affects Bones
These findings suggest that a high-quality, anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts may be especially important for younger white women. They commented: “[Our study] suggests that as women age, healthy diets are impacting their bones. I think this gives us yet another reason to support the recommendations for a healthy diet in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”
These findings also confirm previous studies, which have shown inflammatory factors to increase osteoporosis risk.
A Quick Look at Anti-Inflammatory Eating
And lots of them! Especially the brightly colored ones. Leafy greens are known to reduce inflammation, along with cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cabbage. Colorful fruits such as cherries, raspberries, and blackberries contain a pigment that fights inflammation.
Oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and other unrefined grains are high in fiber, which is thought to quell inflammation.
Legumes: Legumes contain fiber along with antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory substances.
The healthy fats in nuts fight inflammation—this is also true of olive oil and avocados. All of these should be consumed in small quantities in order to limit fat and calories, though.
These condiments add more than flavor—they’re loaded with antioxidants. Turmeric, for example, contains curcumin, one of the most studied anti-inflammatory plant foods.
There are differing theories that explain what, in meat, causes an inflammatory reaction. Science has not yet determined exactly what the cause of the inflammation is. But, Its widely known that meats including eggs cause this inflammation inside the body within hours of consumption.
Dairy is one of the most inflammatory foods in our modern diet, second only to gluten. It causes inflammation in a large percentage of the population, resulting in digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea.
When we eat too much glucose-containing sugar, our body can’t process the excess glucose quickly enough which causes increased levels of pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines.
These foods contain high levels of inflammatory advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These compounds form when products are cooked at high temperatures, pasteurized, dried, smoked, fried, or grilled.