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Open Access Open Badges Research article

A longitudinal study of the association between dietary factors, serum lipids, and bone marrow lesions of the knee

Dawn Doré1*, Jonathon de Hoog1, Graham Giles2, Changhai Ding13, Flavia Cicuttini3 and Graeme Jones1

Author Affiliations

1 Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 23, Hobart, Tasmania, 7000, Australia

2 Cancer Epidemiology Centre, The Cancer Council of Victoria, Rathdowne Street, Carlton, Victoria, 3053, Australia

3 Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, 89 Commercial Road, Melbourne, Victoria, 3004, Australia

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R13  doi:10.1186/ar3689

Published: 18 January 2012



Bone marrow lesions (BMLs) play an important role in knee osteoarthritis, but their etiology is not well understood. The aim of this longitudinal study was to describe the association between dietary factors, serum lipids, and BMLs.


In total, 394 older men and women (mean age, 63 years; range, 52 to 79) were measured at baseline and approximately 2.7 years later. BMLs were determined by using T2-weighted fat-saturation magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) by measuring the maximal area of the lesion. Nutrient intake (total energy, fat, carbohydrate, protein, and sugar) and serum lipids were assessed at baseline.


Cross-sectionally, dietary factors and lipids were not significantly associated with BMLs. Energy, carbohydrate, and sugar intake (but not fat) were positively associated with a change in BML size (β = 15.44 to 19.27 mm2 per 1 SD increase; all P < 0.05). High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol tended to be negatively associated with BML change (β = -11.66 mm2 per 1 SD increase; P = 0.088).


Energy, carbohydrate, and sugar intake may be risk factors for BML development and progression. HDL cholesterol seems protective against BMLs. These results suggest that macronutrients and lipids may be important in BML etiology and that dietary modification may alter BML natural history.