Sticking to a Mediterranean-type diet could reduce bone loss in people with osteoporosis, according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Researchers led by Professor Susan Fairweather-Tait from UEA’s Norwich Medical School observed more than 1,000 people aged between 65 and 79 to find the impact of a Mediterranean diet on bone health in older adults. Just under 10% of these participants were found to have osteoporosis at the start of the study.

The findings show that eating the diet — which features foods rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, unrefined cereals, olive oil and fish — can reduce hip bone loss within just 12 months. According to the study, those following the diet saw an equivalent increase in bone density in one part of the body — the femoral neck.

“This is a particularly sensitive area for osteoporosis as loss of bone in the femoral neck is often the cause of hip fracture, which is common in elderly people with osteoporosis. Bone takes a long time to form, so the 12-month trial, although one of the longest to date, was still a relatively short time frame to show an impact. So the fact we were able to see a marked difference between the groups even in just this one area is significant,” Fairweather-Tait said.

Although the findings were significant, the researchers feel a longer trial would further enhance the study. They also agreed there is no reason for those with osteoporosis not to consider adapting their diet since it has already been “proven to have other health benefits, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer.”