The Mediterranean diet has been linked to several mental and physical benefits, including a lower risk for depression, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Now a new Brazilian study finds that postmenopausal women who adhere to this diet tend to have greater bone and muscle mass compared to those who don’t. The findings are being presented at ENDO 2018 in Chicago, the Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meeting. The society is one of the foremost groups devoted to hormone research and clinical endocrinology.
The Mediterranean diet involves a high intake of fruits and vegetables, grains, potatoes, olive oil and seeds; moderately high fish intake; low saturated fat, dairy and red meat consumption; and regular but moderate drinking of red wine.
Few studies are available about the Mediterranean diet and its impact on body composition after menopause, said the study’s lead investigator, Thais Rasia Silva, Ph.D., a postdoctoral student at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.
The findings are important, she said, because menopause, with its decline in estrogen, increases a woman’s loss of bone mass, raising her risk of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis and broken bones.
Menopause and aging also reduce muscle mass. Declines in skeletal muscle mass and strength in older people are major contributors to increased illness, poorer quality of life and higher death rates, said Silva.
The study involved 103 healthy women from southern Brazil, who had an average age of 55 and who had gone through menopause 5.5 years earlier, on average. All participants were given bone scans to measure their bone mineral density, total body fat and appendicular lean mass, which was used to estimate skeletal muscle mass. They also filled out a food questionnaire asking what they ate in the past month.
A higher Mediterranean diet score (MDS), meaning better adherence to the diet, was significantly tied to higher bone mineral density measured at the lumbar spine and with greater muscle mass, Silva reported. This link was independent of previous hormone therapy, prior smoking behavior or their current level of physical activity, as measured by wearing a pedometer for six days.
“We found that the Mediterranean diet could be a useful nonmedical strategy for the prevention of osteoporosis and fractures in postmenopausal women,” Silva said.
Given the many health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, Silva added, “Postmenopausal women, especially those with low bone mass, should ask their doctor whether they might benefit from consuming this dietary pattern.”
Source: The Endocrine Society