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Is Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Intake Linked to Bone Density in Osteopenia?

Researchers investigated whether the intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids is related to bone mineral density in women with osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Bones are in a dynamic state of breakdown and regeneration known as “bone remodelling”. Bone mass increases during growth up to a peak at around 25 years. However, from about the age of 35 years, bone mass gradually decreases as the bones’ capacity to regenerate does not keep pace with breakdown. While some bone “thinning” is normal with aging, if bone density reduces below a certain level it is known as osteopenia. With further bone loss, this may progress to osteoporosis.

These conditions increase the risk of fractures and are more common in women. This is because women have a lower peak bone mass than men and hormonal changes around menopause also increase bone loss. There have been several studies looking at other factors that may be associated with bone density. Researchers in Spain investigated the association between dietary intake of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCO3-PUFA) and bone density in healthy women and those diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis. They recently reported their findings in the journal PLOS ONE.

A total of 1,865 women between the ages of 20 and 79 years were recruited via internet advertisements and local primary care clinics. The participants were in good general health without any medical conditions or taking any medications which would affect their bone health. All of the subjects were physically active but not taking part in professional sports. The subjects had a physical examination and underwent a DXA scan (an X-ray technique to measure bone mineral density) of their lumbar spine and hip.

All of the participants completed a detailed food-frequency questionnaire for seven days to determine their intake of several LCO3-PUFAs including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), linoleic acid (LA) and arachidonic acid (AA). A statistical analysis was performed to determine any associations between their intake of the various LCO3-PUFAs and bone mineral density (BMD).

Some Positive Correlations between LCO3-PUFAs Intake and Bone Mineral Density

Of the 1,865 participants, 51.7% had a bone mineral density in the normal range, 37.9% were diagnosed with osteopenia and 10.4% with osteoporosis. Overall, positive correlations were seen between ALA, EPA, and DHA intake and bone mineral density. The researchers looked in more detail at the subgroups of women diagnosed as normal, and those with osteopenia or osteoporosis. They noted that intake of LCO3-PUFAs was not significantly associated with bone mineral density in osteoporotic women. However, intake of LCO3-PUFAs was positively associated with bone mineral density in normal women and those with osteopenia.

The researchers suggested that further research is required to better understand the different ways in which bone mineral density is associated with intake of LCO3-PUFAs in normal and osteopenic women and those with osteoporosis.

Written by Julie McShane, Medical Writer

Reference: Lavado-Garcia J, Roncero-Martin R, Moran J, et al. Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid dietary intake is positively associated with bone mineral density in normal and osteopenic Spanish women. PLOS ONE Jan 5, 2018. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0190539.

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