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Anti-inflammation diet could help prevent bone loss and fractures

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Tonya Orchard, an assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology who led the study on how an anti-inflammatory diet could reduce the risk of bone loss in women . Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Tonya Orchard

An Ohio State study suggests a diet high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains could help older women avoid bone loss and fractures.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, showed that women with a less inflammatory diet lost less bone mass over a six-year period, even though they were more likely to have started off with lower bone density.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and causes the site of injury to redden and swell. The body naturally produces chemicals that increase inflammation, as well as chemicals that decrease inflammation. A low inflammation diet — consisting of fruits, vegetables and whole grains — can help reduce inflammation in the body.

Rebecca Jackson, the senior author of the paper and the associate dean for clinical research at OSU’s College of Medicine, said women can use the results of the study when considering their diets.

“This is something you can be personally empowered to do,” Jackson said. “Like so much in science this is just one piece of a puzzle, and we will focus on that so people can make individualized choices.”

According to the study, 160,191 participants were included from the largest study of postmenopausal women in the United States. Participants in the study were a part of the Women’s Health Initiative, a group that focuses on prevention of common diseases in postmenopausal women. The women in this study ranged from 50 to 79 years old, with the average age being 63.

Researchers examined the association between inflammation and diets by using the Dietary Inflammatory Index. The Dietary Inflammatory Index was measured by assigning a score to 32 food components, as they relate to inflammation.

“We were trying to see if we could measure the inflammatory potential of a diet. This index we used is a way to try to quantify how inflammatory an entire dietary pattern might be,” said Tonya Orchard, an assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology who led the study.

The study also examined the association between the index and bone mineral density in a six-year follow-up period.

The women completed a food-frequency questionnaire prior to beginning the study report their fractures and their daily diets. The questionnaire was used to assess the change in their index score over a six-year period. The women from the study were divided into two groups: the clinical-trial group and the observational-study group. Both groups were examined to obtain food frequency data throughout the study either every six months or annually.

Bone-mineral density data was gathered from a smaller group of 10,290 women in the clinical and observational trials who were measured at the beginning of the study, in year three and in year six.

Results showed that women with the highest inflammatory diet were likely to be nonwhite and have a higher bone mineral density. White women younger than 63 years old with the highest inflammatory diet were linked to an increased risk of hip fracture. High-inflammation diets were linked to a decrease in lower-arm fractures and total fractures by 8 percent. These results held constant when controlling for factors such as age, race and ethnicity, parental and personal history of fractures.

Women with the least inflammatory diet had a lower bone mineral density on average at at the beginning of the study, but also lost less bone mineral density after six years, compared to women with the highest inflammation diet.

“In younger postmenopausal women, anti-inflammatory diet may play more of a role in reducing fracture risk,” Orchard said.

It is possible that a particular food component could be associated with fracture risk rather than the entire diet, the study noted, as the index calculated fracture risk based on the entire diet.

Orchard and Jackson are working on another analysis from the Women’s Health Initiative study about the relation between fatty acids, biomarkers and joint replacement.

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