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Study Hall: Olive oil helps build strong bones

For Study Hall each week, we sort through the deluge of new medical studies and wordy white papers to bring you one that deserves your attention—in plain, healthy English.

Got olive oil? A study published online this month in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that people who ate a Mediterranean diet enhanced with lots of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) may be protected against bone loss.

The study: Studies have shown that the the incidence of osteoporosis in Europe is lower in regions where individuals follow a traditional Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits and vegetables and includes a high intake of olives and olive oil. So, researchers in Spain set out to determine if olive oil consumption, in conjunction with eating a Mediterranean diet, prevented bone loss.

They selected 127 men, aged 55–80 and at risk for heart disease, who were already part of a larger, longitudinal study. Participants were randomly assigned to three groups. One group ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil, another ate a Mediterranean diet supplement with mixed nuts, and the third ate a low fat diet. The participants followed the dietary plans for two years.

The results: Those who consumed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil experienced a significant increase in levels of osteocalcin, a protein correlated with increased bone mineral density, while those in the other groups did not.

What it means: Load up on fruits, veggies, fresh fish, and, of course, olive oil. Strong bones are just one more advantage of adopting this diet with a slew of health benefits. (Staying away from the bread basket for dipping is not.)  —Allison Becker