Can an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help Prevent Osteoporosis?

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The claim: Following an anti-inflammatory diet can lower the risk of developing osteoporosis.

The evidence: Short-term, or acute, inflammation is the body’s first line of defense against infections and injuries. But inflammation that lasts too long and becomes chronic is associated with several problems, including increased bone turnover and a greater risk of fracture in older adults.

To look at the impact of pro- and anti-inflammatory eating patterns on bone health, researchers analyzed data from more than 160,000 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study and calculated their Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII) scores. (The DII assesses the overall inflammatory potential of a diet, not individual foods.)

The findings, published last year in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, showed that postmenopausal women (mean age, 63) with the least inflammatory diets (the lowest scores) lost less bone mineral density over six years than those with the most inflammatory diets (the highest scores). Consuming a more inflammatory diet was also associated with increased hip fracture risk in white women under age 63. The dietary pattern most often associated with an anti-inflammatory benefit is a Mediterranean-type diet. This diet is rich in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, fish, and olive oil.

The bottom line: Because this study was observational, it doesn’t prove that such a diet is a boon to bone health. Nevertheless, the overall health benefits of whole-food, plant-based diets high in fiber and low in saturated fats and added sugars are well recognized.