Studies on the association between dietary patterns and bone mineral density (BMD) have reported inconsistent findings. Data from the North West Adelaide Health Study, a population-based cohort study undertaken in Australia, were used to assess this association among adults aged 50 years and above. In this specific study, 1182 adults (545 males, 45·9 %) had dietary data collected using a FFQ and also had BMD measurements taken using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Factor analysis with principal component method was applied to ascertain dietary patterns. Two distinct dietary patterns were identified. Pattern 1 (‘prudent pattern’) was characterised by high intake of fruits, vegetables, sugar, nut-based milk, fish, legumes and high-fibre bread. In contrast, pattern 2 (‘Western pattern’) was characterised by high levels of processed and red meat, snacks, takeaway foods, jam, beer, soft drinks, white bread, poultry, potato with fat, high-fat dairy products and eggs. Compared with the study participants in the first tertile (T1, lowest consumption) of the prudent pattern, participants in the third tertile (T3) had a lower prevalence of low BMD (prevalence ratio (PR)=0·52; 95 % CI 0·33, 0·83) after adjusting for socio-demographic, lifestyle and behavioural characteristics, chronic conditions and energy intake. Participants in T3 of the Western pattern had a higher prevalence of low BMD (PR=1·68; 95 % CI 1·02, 2·77) compared with those in T1. In contrast to the Western diet, a dietary pattern characterised by high intake of fruits, vegetables and dairy products is positively associated with BMD.