Omega Fatty Acids and Bone Health.




Am J CLin Nutr

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Omega-6 Fatty Acids Osteoporosis
Professional Data: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Omega-6 Fatty Acids Osteoporosis


While many scientists believe that severe deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids exist in the United States, the same cannot be said of omega-6. By some estimates, many Americans consume 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3. This is because so many of the common vegetable oils in the American diet—such as corn, safflower and sunflower oils— are packed with omega-6. Scientists believe that such large quantities of omega-6 in the body may trigger inflammation, sensitivity to pain and thickening of the blood.

Since that time thousands of scientific studies have evaluated the multiple ways that omega-3 fatty acids promotes not only cardiovascular health, but also the healthy functioning of many other biological activities. Many Americans don't get enough of it in their diets. One reason is that omega-3 oils are very susceptible to spoilage and so many food manufacturers remove it to keep products fresh. Another reason is that omega-3 oils mostly come from cold-water fish and wild game— something most Americans don't eat in great quantities.

A recent study investigated the role of omega fatty acids in bone health. This study involved 1,532 women and men aged 45 to 90 years of age. Using food-frequency questionnaires, researchers obtained dietary intake of both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Hip and spine bone mineral density (BMD) was also measured in these women. Medical history and medication use was also recorded. The results found an inverse relationship between the omega fatty acid ratio and bone mineral density in the hip. The authors concluded that, “a higher ratio of n–6 to n–3 fatty acids is associated with lower BMD at the hip in both sexes. These findings suggest that the relative amounts of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids may play a vital role in preserving skeletal integrity in older age.”1


1. Weiss LA, et al. Ratio of n–6 to n–3 fatty acids and bone mineral density in older adults: the Rancho Bernardo Study. Am J Clin Nutr. Apr 2005;81(4):934-938.