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09-08-2011 | Bone health | Article

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may promote bone health


Free abstract

MedWire News: A study conducted in rats suggests that during the growth stage, a variety of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (ω-3 PUFA) sources should be consumed in order to improve bone health.

While bone formation surpasses the rate of bone absorption during childhood and adolescence, this pattern is reversed in adulthood. This eventually leads to bone mineral and protein loss, causing reduced bone strength and osteoporosis development. Previous studies have found that maximizing bone mass during periods of bone growth can slow the rate of osteoporosis later in life, and ω-3 PUFAs may help to regulate bone metabolism.

Janet Tou (West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA) and colleagues studied the effect of various ω-3 PUFAs on the bone mass and strength of growing female rats, as reported in the journal Bone.

The rats were fed a high-fat diet containing either corn oil or one of five ω-3 PUFA-rich oils: flaxseed, krill, menhaden, salmon, or tuna. After 8 weeks, bone mineral density (BMD) was measured and bone strength and trabecular and cortical bone architecture were assessed.

In general, the rats given ω-3 PUFAs had positive tibia longitudinal growth, with the groups fed tuna oil or salmon oil showing the most growth. The tuna oil group also had the highest tibial BMD and bone mineral content.

Tuna oil is high in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), explain the authors, suggesting that ω-3 PUFAs rich in DHA are especially beneficial in increasing bone mass during growth. However, it was noted that fish oil-based ω-3 PUFAs improved trabecular but not cortical bone architecture; greater improvements in microarchitecture were seen in group given flaxseed oil, which is high in alpha-linolenic acid.

These findings suggest that no single ω-3 PUFA increases both bone mass and bone microarchitecture. Therefore, the authors conclude that "a variety of ω-3 PUFA sources should be consumed in order to improve bone health during the growth stage."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Stephanie Leveene

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