Dr. Jose Manuel Fernandez-Real of the Dr. Josep Trueta Hospital in Girona, Spain, said age-related bone mass loss and decreased bone strength affects women and men alike. Studies have shown the incidence of osteoporosis -- the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density -- is lower in the Mediterranean basin than elsewhere in Europe, Fernandez-Real said.
The study involved 127 community-dwelling men ages 55-80, randomly selected from one of the Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea study centers, who had at least two years of follow-up.
The study is a large, parallel group, randomized-controlled trial aimed at assessing effects of the Mediterranean diet on the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, Fernandez-Real said.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables and high intake of olives and olive oil.
Participants were randomly assigned to three intervention groups -- Mediterranean diet with mixed nuts, Mediterranean diet with virgin olive oil and a low-fat diet.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, found only consumption of the Mediterranean diet with olive oil was associated with a significant increase in the concentrations of total osteocalcin and other bone formation markers -- linked to better bone health. There were no significant changes in serum calcium in subjects taking olive oil, whereas serum calcium decreased significantly in the other two groups, Fernandez-Real said.