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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.

References:
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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