According to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM), going on a 2 year Mediterranean diet enhanced with olive oil can increase serum osteocalin concentrations, which can result in protecting a person’s bones.

Many women and men suffer from bone mass loss and a decrease in the strength of their bones as they get older, which often leads to osteoporosis and a high risk of fractures. However, studies have proven that in Europe, osteoporosis rates are much lower in the Mediterranean area.

A Mediterranean diet consists of many fruits and vegetables, is high in monosaturated fat and dietary fiber, as well as high in salt content. The diet tends to be low in saturated fats.

Lead author of the study José Manuel Fernández-Real, MD, PhD from the Hospital Dr. Josep Trueta in Girona, Spain commented:

”The intake of olive oil has been related to the prevention of osteoporosis in experimental and in vitro models. This is the first randomized study which demonstrates that olive oil preserves bone, at least as inferred by circulating bone markers, in humans.”

The study consisted of 127 randomly selected men between the ages of 55 and 80 who had lived in their community for quite some time, and were involved in one of the PREDIMED study centers (Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea). PREDIMED is a large, randomized, controlled trial which looks to find the effect of a Mediterranean diet in preventing cardiovascular problems.

The volunteers were all elderly and had never had cardiovascular problems, but were diabetics or had risks of cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension or dyslipidemia, or had a history of family members with premature cardiovascular disease.

Those involved in the study were randomly assigned to 3 different intervention diet groups; either a low fat diet group, a mediterranean diet with virgin olive oil group, or a Mediterranean diet with mixed nuts group.

The researchers took biochemical measurements of the following at baseline and after a follow up two years later on blood samples:

  • Glucose
  • Osteocalcin
  • Total Cholesterol
  • HDL-Cholesterol
  • Triglycerides

The measurements revealed that the Mediterranean diet with olive oil resulted in a large rise in the concentrations of total osteocalcin, as well as other bone-formation factors.

Serum calcium levels decreased in the other two groups, but did not alter in the people who were in the Mediterranean diet with olive oil group.
Fernández-Real concluded:

“It’s important to note that circulating osteocalcin was associated with preserved insulin secretion in subjects taking olive oil. Osteocalcin has also been described to increase insulin secretion in experimental models.”

This study isn’t the first piece of research published this year to suggest health benefits from a Mediterranean diet. An article published in the Archives of Neurology in February 2012 indicated that a Mediterranean diet may benefit the brain and a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that a Mediterranean diet is good for mental and physical health. You can read more about the mediterranean diet in our article, What Is The Mediterranean Diet?.

Written by Christine Kearney