osteoporosis

A recent study assesses the correlation between dietary lifestyles and musculoskeletal health in middle-aged women with osteoporosis.

Medical conditions targeting the skeletal system, such as osteoporosis, are globally prevalent. Osteoporosis is characterized by a loss of bone tissue. Low bone mineral density is also a risk factor for bone fractures. Often, bone loss is a result of vitamin D and calcium deficiency. These deficiencies are often caused by dietary intake and can also be overcome by changing dietary patterns.

Individuals achieve a peak bone mass in their thirties. After this age, a persistent rate of bone loss occurs. To overcome a greater risk of osteoporosis, scientists recommend that individuals maintain a healthy bone mass reserve from an early age. A recent Australian study published in the British Journal of Nutrition searches for the association between dietary intervention and characteristics of musculoskeletal health including muscle strength, bone mass, and balance.

The study recruited 347 middle-aged female participants. All individuals were between the ages of 36 and 57 years old and were lacking any medical history of renal failure, thyroid disease, hormone replacement, hysterectomy, and rheumatoid arthritis. Dietary patterns were recorded using a questionnaire and additional questionnaires were used to determine levels of physical activity. Researchers used dual-energy absorptiometry to measure total bone mineral content in the body. The participants underwent four clinical balance tests: functional reach, step, lateral reach, and the up and go test.  The strength of the lower limbs was determined in relation to the quadriceps and the hip extensors. Body mass index, height, and education level were recorded for all participants.

Dietary results were categorized into three patterns: a diet comprising primarily of processed foods, high protein and high fat dietary patterns, and a healthy plant-based diet. Muscle strength of the lower limbs was positively correlated with a healthy, plant-based dietary pattern. In contrast, a processed foods diet was inversely related to total body bone mineral content, and the functional reach balance test. Multiple trials rendered these correlations insignificant. The final results indicated that dietary patterns may be associated with bone mass and muscle strength however further research on the topic is necessary.

The research study targets a relatively unexplored correlation between dietary patterns and muscle strength as well as bone mass. Although the results were inconclusive, the study provided sufficient data to encourage more extensive research on the topic. Over time, this exploration may benefit countries to lower risks of osteoporosis from an early age to secure a healthy elderly population. Interdisciplinary research combining the fields of human biology and nutrition may reveal valuable information to treat and prevent bone-related medical conditions.

Written by Shrishti Ahuja, HBSc

Reference: Wu, F., Wills, K., Laslett, L. L., Oldenburg, B., Jones, G., & Winzenberg, T. (2017). Associations of dietary patterns with bone mass, muscle strength and balance in a cohort of Australian middle-aged women. British Journal of Nutrition, 1-9. doi:10.1017/s0007114517002483

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