Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by low bone mass and increased fragility, putting patients at significantly higher risk of fractures, which are major causes of morbidity, especially in older people. It gets much less attention than many other chronic health problems, yet the scary truth is that osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually worldwide – that’s an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds. And the disability due to osteoporosis is greater than that caused by cancers (with the exception of lung cancer).
In the UK alone, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men will suffer a fracture over the age of 501. And even more worrying is the news that this picture is set to get worse not better.
Osteoporosis was once considered to be a disease caused by a variety of endocrine, metabolic and mechanical factors, yet emerging evidence now suggests that inflammation may also have a significant role to play in the development of the disease. Understanding of the bone remodelling process has developed significantly in recent years and it is now clear that factors involved in inflammation are closely linked with those critical for bone health. Numerous pro-inflammatory cytokines have been implicated in the regulation of osteoblasts (bone building cells) and osteoclasts (cells that break down bone) and there is now plenty of scientific evidence that underpins the theory that inflammation is a significant contributory factor to the development and progression of osteoporosis2.
Latest study findings
The latest study to investigate this link involved more than 160,000 postmenopausal women and was carried out by a team of researchers from Ohio State’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science. Data was collected from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study and Clinical Trials and results were published recently in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research3.
The main finding of the study was a significant link between bone density and dietary inflammatory index score (DII) - a measure of how inflammatory a diet is.
Results showed that women with the least inflammatory diets (low DII score) lost less bone density during a six year follow up period than women with the most inflammatory diets (high DII score). Higher DII scores were also associated with a 50% greater risk of hip fracture in Caucasian women younger than 63.
Especially significant given the size of the study group (more than 160,000 postmenopausal women), these results add further weight to the health benefits of consuming an anti-inflammatory diet. And whilst this type of diet may help to reduce your risk of osteoporosis or even slow disease progression; it’s also beneficial for many other aspects of your health too, since ongoing inflammation has been linked to many common chronic diseases in the Western world such as heart disease, some forms of cancer, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Anti-inflammatory diet – Top tips!
• Mediterranean-style diet
• 10 + portions daily of a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables (organic where possible)
• Reduce meat and dairy products
• Increase oily fish (no more than 2 portions weekly), nuts & seeds
• Increase plant forms of protein such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, soy, nuts & seeds
• Reduce alcohol, refined sugar, convenience and processed foods
2) Key nutrients
• Vitamin D3 & K2- Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium, whilst vitamin K makes sure this vital mineral is deposited in your bones rather than your arteries. Supplementation is best in the form of D3 (cholecalciferol) & K2 (menaquinone).
• Omega-3 fish oil supplement containing EPA & DHA – it’s crucial to ensure optimal daily intake of omega-3s to support anti-inflammatory pathways in the body.
• High strength daily bone health multivitamin containing calcium, magnesium, boron & zinc
• Curcumin is currently a hot topic for inflammation, with a growing body of research now showing it can deliver significant anti-inflammatory benefits without side effects. Curcumin is the principal curcuminoid found in the widely used spice, turmeric. The curcumin content of turmeric is not high, (somewhere around 3%), so it’s very difficult to reach therapeutic levels simply by using the spice or fresh root in your food. Most of the studies to date have used turmeric extracts containing a high proportion of curcumin, with dosages of upwards of 1g daily.
• Rosemary extract – The popular culinary herb rosemary has a long history of traditional use for supporting balanced inflammation. Supplement with an extract to help you to achieve a therapeutic dose.
• Ginger extract – Ginger is widely considered to be an effective natural anti-inflammatory agent.
International Osteoporosis Foundation - https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics
Ginaldi, L, Di Benedetto, M C et al. Osteoporosis, Inflammation & Ageing. Immunity & Ageing. 2005; 2: 14. Published online 2005 Nov 4. doi: 10.1186/1742-4933-2-14
Orchard T et al. Dietary inflammatory index, bine mineral density and risk of fracture in postmenopausal women: results from the Women’s Health Initiative. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Published online ahead of print: Doi: 10.1002/jbmr.3070