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Healthy Balance for Healthy Bones

The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids may affect many aspects of our health, including bone health. While the ideal ratio is not known, experts agree that most people benefit from more omega-3 fatty acids in their diet and a lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. People easily obtain ample omega-6 fats in their diets. Common food sources are seeds and nuts, and oils that are extracted from them. Corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and soybean oils are commonly used in many packaged and snack foods.

Researchers followed more than 1,500 older men and women (ages 45 to 90) for a four-year study. People with higher ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids had greater losses of bone-mineral density in the hip.

Fish oil supplements are an excellent source of omega-3's and supplementation lowers ratios of omega-6 over omega-3 ratios. This trial included people using fish oil supplements.

Omega-3 fatty acids may affect several processes involved in healthy bone metabolism. They promote healthy levels of prostaglandins, favoring bone resorption to bone loss. They decrease synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which may play a role in bone loss. Research also indicates that higher omega-3 intakes help increase calcium absorption, decrease calcium loss and increase bone calcium.

Weiss and others. "Ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids and bone mineral density in older adults: the Rancho Bernardo Study." Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81:934-8.

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