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In Case You Need Another Reason to Take Fish Oil... Improve Bone Density!
By Jennifer Morganti, ND , NEEDS Director & Educator

Does fish oil have a protective effect on bone health? Researchers addressed this question using data extracted from the very large and long-term Women's Health Initiative study. They looked at blood samples of 324 postmenopausal women who suffered a hip fracture to determine a correlation with omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acid levels. They matched them with the same number of women from the study who did not suffer a fracture. Overall, they found that women who had the top third highest levels of omega-3 had a 45% reduced risk of fracture. They also broke down the types of omega-3 and found that ALA (plant derived) and EPA (fish oil derived) levels had similar protective effects (55% reduced risk), whereas high DHA (fish oil) levels did not lower risk significantly.

Women with the highest levels of omega-6 fatty acids had a whopping 96% increased risk of hip fracture as compared to those with the lowest levels, further confirming the detrimental effects of diets too high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Although diet and supplementation were not evaluated in this study, it's probably reasonable to conclude that increasing omega-3 intake through plant and marine sources contributes to healthy bones and reduced risk of fracture.

This is not the first study to find a positive correlation between omega-3 levels and bone density. The real question is "why?" I haven't found a lot of discussion about "why" in my research, but I do know that many diseases that are related to high inflammation, such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and lupus, also carry a high risk of developing osteoporosis. When inflammation occurs, so does bone loss and increased fracture risk. Thus, it makes sense that being deficient in omega-3 fatty acids prompts inflammation, which will reduce bone density over time, even in the absence of serious disease.

We already had a long list of reasons to take omega-3 fatty acids, as fish oil, krill, or flaxseed oil. With this latest research showing it also helps bone density, women over 50 can't afford to ignore this essential nutrient.

Design of the Women's Health Initiative clinical trial and observational study. The Women's Health Initiative Study Group. Control Clin Trials. 1998;19(1):61–109.
Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2012 Mar 1;11(3):234-50

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