Olive Oil May Boost Bones
in Mediterranean Diet
Already touted for heart health and other benefits, the
so-called Mediterranean diet may also be good for your
bones, especially when it’s served with extra olive oil.
Spanish researchers report that a Mediterranean-style diet,
enriched with olive oil, improved blood markers associated
with bone formation.
Jose Manuel Fernandez-Real, MD, PhD, of the Hospital
of Girona, and colleagues studied 127 men, ages 55 to 80,
participating in the large PREDIMED clinical trial of the
Mediterranean diet’s cardiovascular effects. Participants were
randomly assigned to a low-fat control diet or a Mediterranean
diet with either at least 50 milliliters (a little over three
tablespoons) daily of olive oil or 30 grams daily of walnuts,
almonds and hazelnuts.
Over two years of followup, only the diet with extra
olive oil showed bone-marker benefits. The olive-oil group
showed improvements in blood levels of osteocalcin and
P1NP, both markers of bone health, and an increase in betacell
function, suggesting a protective effect on bone. Blood
levels of calcium—vital for bone building—were stable in the
olive-oil group, while calcium dropped significantly in the
other two groups. Consumption of olives was also positively
associated with indicators of bone health.
Osteoporosis is less common in the Mediterranean
region than in the rest of Europe, suggesting a link between
the area’s typical diet, high in olive oil, and bone health.
Researchers 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.”
A co-author of the study, Mònica Bulló, PhD, of Rovira
i Virgili University, cautions, however, that whether this
actually translates into better bone health still needs more
investigation. She notes that these researchers published similar
findings in 2009 about the Mediterranean diet and bone
markers, but failed to see actual changes in bone density.
Such changes take place slowly, Bulló adds, so a longer-term
study is probably necessary to detect them.
It’s too early to say you can count on olive oil to protect
your bones, says Bess Dawson-Hughes, MD, director of Tufts’
HNRCA Bone Metabolism Laboratory. But, given the other
health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and of switching
from saturated fats to monounsaturated fats like olive oil (see
this issue’s Special Report), this might be one more reason to
adopt such a healthy eating pattern.
TO LEARN MORE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, August 1, 2012;
abstract at jcem.endojournals.org/content/early/2012/07/31/jc.2012-2221.short.