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Associations of dietary patterns with bone mass, muscle strength and balance in a cohort of Australian middle-aged women

  • Feitong Wu (a1), Karen Wills (a1), Laura L. Laslett (a1), Brian Oldenburg (a2), Graeme Jones (a1) and Tania Winzenberg (a1) (a3)...


Influences of dietary patterns on musculoskeletal health are poorly understood in middle-aged women. This cross-sectional analysis from a cohort of 347 women (aged 36–57 years) aimed to examine associations between dietary patterns and musculoskeletal health outcomes in middle-aged women. Diet was measured by the Cancer Council of Victoria FFQ. Total body bone mineral content (TB BMC), femoral neck and lumbar spine bone density (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), lower limbs muscle strength (LMS) and balance tests (timed up and go test, step test, functional reach test (FRT) and lateral reach test) were also measured. Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify dietary patterns and scores for each pattern generated using factor loadings with absolute values ≥0·20. Associations between food pattern scores and musculoskeletal outcomes were assessed using multivariable linear regression. Three dietary patterns were identified: ‘Healthy’ (high consumption of a plant-based diet – vegetables, legumes, fruit, tomatoes, nuts, snacks, garlic, whole grains and low intake of high-fat dairy products), ‘high protein, high fat’ (red meats, poultry, processed meats, potatoes, cruciferous and dark-yellow vegetables, fish, chips, spirits and high-fat dairy products) and ‘Processed foods’ (high intakes of meat pies, hamburgers, beer, sweets, fruit juice, processed meats, snacks, spirits, pizza and low intake of cruciferous vegetables). After adjustment for confounders, Healthy pattern was positively associated with LMS, whereas Processed foods pattern was inversely associated with TB BMC and FRT. The associations were not significant after accounting for multiple comparisons. There were no associations with any other outcomes. These results suggest that maintaining a healthy diet could contribute to bone acquisition, muscle strength and balance in adult life. However, while they provide some support for further investigating dietary strategies for prevention of age-related loss of muscle and deterioration in balance, the exploratory nature of the analyses means that confirmation in longitudinal studies and/or trials with pre-specified hypotheses is needed.

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Corresponding author

* Corresponding author: T. Winzenberg, fax +61 3 6226 7704, email


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