From the very beginning, the Save Institute has been spreading scientific literature confirming the power of a healthy diet to prevent and reverse osteoporosis. And now, a recent study has confirmed that following a diet in accordance with any of three dietary guidelines– the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet, the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (aMED) and the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI)– reduces fracture risk.
Today we'll examine the study, analyze each of the three diets, and then we’ll compare them to the dietary guidelines of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
New Study Links Diet To Bone Fracture
A recently published study examined the association between three diets and the risk of hip fracture in nearly 75,000 postmenopausal women.
The participants’ diets were assessed every four years between 1980 and 2012 using a food frequency questionnaire, and those results were scored for adherence to three dietary standards. Then those scores were compared to the participants’ incidence of hip fracture.
As mentioned above, the diet quality indices used were the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet, the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (aMED) and the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI). We’ll look at their specific requirements later, but all three emphasize vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and heart-healthy fats.
Two thousand one hundred forty-three participants fractured their hips during the course of the study. Researchers found inverse trends between all three diets and hip fractures in women younger than 75.1
In other words, the closer participants’ eating habits had adhered to the diet, the less likely they were to have fractured a hip.1
For women over the age of 75, close adherence to the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) translated to lower fracture risk, and a diet in accordance with DASH also suggested less fracture risk. For women older than 75, the aMED diet did not appear to impact fracture risk.1
In a study of 75,000 women, the AHEI correlated with a lower risk of hip fracture. This was more apparent among women younger than 75. Researchers also linked adherence to the DASH and aMED diets to lower hip fracture risk in women younger than 75.
Reinforcing What We Know
Far from the usual recommendations of the Medical Establishment, this study confirms the Save Institute’s stand that you can strengthen your bones and prevent fractures through dietary and lifestyle changes, as explained in the REbuild stage of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program’s (ORP) RESTORE protocol.
RESTORE is an acronym that combines the three core bone-building strategies in the ORP:
Stage 1: REthink Your Bone Health
Stage 2: STOp the Bone Thieves
Stage 3: REbuild Your Bones
REthink: The first stage in naturally reversing and preventing bone loss is to rethink your previously held beliefs as they relate to osteoporosis and osteopenia. Osteoporosis is not a disease, no matter how your doctor may talk about it. When you accept that bone loss is a correctable biological process, you need to internalize that belief by disowning the “disease” and taking action through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.
STOp: Stage two is to stop engaging in habits, consuming foods, and using products that damage bones.
REbuild: Stage three is most relevant to the study we’re examining today. The REbuild stage introduces a healthy pH-balanced, anti-inflammatory diet filled with Foundation Foods and bolstered with a regimen of Foundation Supplements. It also articulates an exercise plan that activates your body’s bone-building process.
Today we’ll focus on the dietary portion of the REbuild stage by comparing a bone-healthy pH-balanced diet to the three diets used in the hip fracture-risk study.
This study adds yet more evidence in support of the Save Institute’s long-held position that diet is an effective means for preventing fracture. This new proof aligns with the REbuild stage of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program’s RESTORE protocol.
The Mediterranean Diet
The alternative Mediterranean Diet (aMED) is a dietary plan based on the traditional foods used in Mediterranean-style cooking, with a focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other nutrient-dense plant foods.
The aMED diet was created to help balance cholesterol levels through the inclusion of healthy fatty acids from sources such as nuts, fish, and olive oil. Those bone-healthy foods are also included in the ORP’s dietary recommendations.
Here are the basic requirements for eating according to aMED:2
- 7-10 servings of veggies and fruits a day
- All grains should be whole grains
- About a handful of nuts every day: almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, peanut butter or tahini
- Replace butter or margarine with olive or canola oil
- Season meals with herbs and spices instead of salt
- Eat fish once or twice a week: tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, herring
- Substitute poultry or fish for red meat, and choose lean cuts of meat and small portions
- Avoid processed and high-fat meats like sausage and bacon
- Low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese)
- Red wine, as much as a glass a day (optional)
Savers are likely already seeing the similarities to the pH-balanced diet recommended in the REbuild stage of the RESTORE protocol. A focus on micronutrient and antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits, a reduction of animal protein, and smart substitutions (like olive oil for butter).
However, the aMED diet includes consumption of dairy products instead of plant-based substitutes and does not specify the 80/20 balance of alkalizing to acidifying foods.
Given the similarities of the aMED diet to the ORP’s dietary guidelines, it’s no surprise that the aMED reduced the study participants’ fracture risk.
The aMED is based on Mediterranean cooking, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and heart-healthy fatty acids. It bears a close resemblance to the ORP’s dietary plan.
The DASH Diet
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure. It consists of sodium reduction and the consumption of a wide variety of foods that reduce blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy, plus moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts:3
The basic requirements are:
- 8-10 servings of vegetables and fruits
- 6-8 servings of grains (focus on whole grains)
- 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy
- 6 or fewer servings of lean meat, poultry, and fish
- 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes
- Limit fats and oils – 2-3 servings, avoiding saturated and transfats
- Limit sweets – 5 or fewer servings per week)
- Limit sodium – no more than 2,300 mg per day
The DASH diet has some obvious similarities to the ORP’s REbuild diet– a focus on fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, and cutting back on sweets and sodium. The blood pressure-reducing minerals favored by DASH are also bone-healthy. Both calcium and magnesium are Foundation Supplements.
The ORP recommends additional steps to strengthen bones, such as limiting dairy consumption and avoiding milk. The DASH diet doesn’t provide as much encouragement to eat heart and bone healthy sources of protein such as fish, eggs, and nuts as the aMED and the ORP. The DASH diet is also far more prescriptive, requiring a great deal of measuring and record-keeping.
In contrast, the 80/20 pH-balanced diet, is easy to follow, since the only measuring you have to do is simply look at your plate and ensure you’re eating about 80 percent alkalizing foods and 20 percent acidifying ones.
The DASH diet was developed to treat or prevent hypertension (high blood pressure). It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains, includes dairy, and limits sweets, fats, and oils. The resulting diet resembles the ORP’s dietary plan but is more complex and not tailored to supporting bone health.
The Healthy Eating Index
The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) is a measurement of adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) issued by the United States Department of Agriculture. It is used to assess how close a person’s diet is to the guideline’s recommendation.
The HEI scores dietary habits on a scale of 0 to 100. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) is a 144-page publication that specifies what the USDA considers as healthy eating patterns and recommends exact quantities of different types of foods be part of a daily or weekly diet. It aims to promote health, prevent chronic disease, and help people reach and maintain a healthy weight.
According to the DGA, healthy eating patterns include:4
- A variety of vegetables from all subgroups (dark greens, red and orange, legumes, starchy)
- Whole fruits
- Grains (at least half whole grains)
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy
- A variety of protein-rich foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products
The DGA recommends limiting saturated fats and transfats, added sugars, and sodium:4
- Less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars
- Less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats
- Less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium
- Alcohol, if consumed, should be limited to one drink per day for women, or up to two for men
These are the specific food quantity recommendations of the DGA for a 2000-calorie diet:4
Vegetables – 2½ c-eq/day
- Dark Green – 1½ c-eq/wk
- Red & Orange – 5½ c-eq/wk
- Legumes (Beans & Peas) – 1½ c-eq/wk
- Starchy – 5 c-eq/wk
- Other – 4 c-eq/wk
Fruits – 2 c-eq/day
Grains – 6 oz-eq/day
- Whole Grains – ≥ 3 oz-eq/day
- Refined Grains – ≤ 3 oz-eq/day
Dairy – 3 c-eq/day
Protein Foods – 5½ oz-eq/day
- Seafood – 8 oz-eq/wk
- Meats, Poultry, Eggs – 26 oz-eq/wk
- Nuts, Seeds, Soy Products – 5 oz-eq/wk
Oils – 27 g/day
Limit on Calories for Other Uses (% of Calories) – 270 kcal/day (14%)
Unlike the DGA, the ORP recommends bone-healthy substitutions for dairy milk and focuses on making each meal 80/20 pH-balanced instead of counting the quantities of everything you eat.
In the study, the participants with the highest HEI (Healthy Eating Index) scores saw the steepest reduction in fracture risk. A close reading of the DGA reveals that low HEI scores are typically due to inadequate fruit and vegetable intake combined with excessive consumption of meat, sugar, and saturated fats.4
When following the 80/20 pH-balanced diet, it’s easy to correct that imbalance by simply adjusting the ratio of alkalizing to acidifying foods on your plate. In doing so, you’ll consume more fruits and vegetables and less meat and sugar.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) are an in-depth set of recommendations issued by the USDA. Alignment with the DGA is measured by the Healthy Eating Index used in the hip fracture risk study. There are a few similarities between the ORP and the DGA, but the ORP is more focused on supporting bone health.
Eat Your Way To Stronger Bones
The bone-healthy qualities of the aMED, the DASH, and the DGA are shared by the ORP. The difference is that the ORP’s nutritional plan is centered around scientifically-proven ways to boost bone health that extend beyond a generally healthy diet.
By following the 80/20 pH-balanced diet, you will not only be meeting the base criteria of the three diets described today, but also actively protecting your bones from the damaging effects of acidification.
When you build your meals around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, fish, nuts, and other whole foods, you’ll keep your bones strong and your palate satisfied. It's easy and enjoyable to get the science-backed benefits of a bone-healthy diet, including reduced fracture risk and improved bone quality.
Eat Your Way to Stronger Bones!
Discover over 200 mouth-watering bone healthy recipes for breakfast, smoothies, appetizers, soups, salads, vegetarian dishes, fish, and plenty of main courses and even desserts!