Since the 1990s, physicians and nutritionists have been praising the Mediterranean diet. It stresses plant-based foods — fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, whole grains, and nuts. Red meat is consumed infrequently, but fish and poultry are eaten at least twice a week. Healthy fats such as olive and canola oil replace butter, and herbs and spices are used as flavorings instead of salt. Finally, red wine in moderation is said to be beneficial. Studies have found an association between the Mediterranean diet and lower risks of heart disease, some cancers, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Now a new study from the University of Wϋrtzburg in Germany suggests that the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of hip fractures. The researchers gathered data on more than 90,000 American women between ages 50 and 79, with an average age of 64. The researchers looked at the results of four dietary programs, all of which emphasized fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and monounsaturated fats. One of the diets was a Mediterranean-style diet.
During the course of the study, which lasted from 1993 to 2014, the women had 2,121 hip fractures and 28,718 total fractures. The women on the Mediterranean diet had the lowest rate of hip fractures (although not the lowest rate of total fractures). The women on the other three diets did not show a lower incidence of either hip fractures or total fractures.
The difference was not huge — it worked out to a difference of about three tenths of a percent — and the researchers were not quite ready to pronounce a cause-and-effect relationship between the Mediterranean diet and fewer hip fractures. Nevertheless, according to Bernhard Haring, M.D., director of the study, “These results support the notion that following a healthy dietary pattern may play a role in the maintenance of bone health in postmenopausal women.”
Notably, the Mediterranean diet does not include a lot of dairy products, which are said to be good for the bones. While it might be expected that such a diet would lead to more fractures, it appears that the diet might actually have a protective effect.