Advertisement
Icon WebMD Expert Blogs

Integrative Medicine and Wellness

with Joe Pizzorno, Jr., ND

The Integrative Medicine and Wellness blog has now been retired. We appreciate the wisdom and support Dr. Joseph Pizzorno has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years. If you would like to talk with others about wellness, please join or start a discussion on one of our Health Exchanges.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Omega-3-rich Foods Protect Bone Health

Alpha linolenic acid, the omega-3 fat found in walnuts and flaxseed, promotes bone health by helping to prevent excessive bone turnover–when consumption of foods rich in this omega-3 fat results in a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the diet.

FULL STORY:

Other studies have shown that diets rich in the omega-3s from fish (DHA and EPA), which also naturally result in a lowered ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats, reduce bone loss. Researchers think this is most likely because omega-6 fats are converted into pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, while omega-3 fats are metabolized into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. (Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances made in our bodies from fatty acids.)

In this study, 23 participants ate each of 3 diets for a 6-week period with a 3 week washout period in between diets. All 3 diets provided a similar amount of fat, but their ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats was quite different:

  • Diet 1 provided 34% total fat with omega-6 and omega-3 fats in amounts typically seen in the American diet: 9% polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) of which 7.7% were omega-6 and only 0.8% omega-3 fats, resulting in a pro-inflammatory ratio of 9.6:1.
  • Diet 2, an omega-6-rich diet, provided 37% total fat containing 16% PUFAs of which 12% were omega-6 and 3.6% omega-3, a better but still pro-inflammatory ratio of 3.3:1.
  • Diet 3, which provided 38% in total fats, was an omega-3-rich diet, containing 17% PUFAs, of which 10.5% were omega-6 and 6.5% omega-3, resulting in an anti-inflammatory ratio of 1.6:1.

After each diet, subjects’ blood levels of N-telopeptides, a marker of bone breakdown, were measured, and were found to be much lower following Diet 3, the omega-3-rich diet, than either of the other two.

The level of N-telopeptides in each diet also correlated with that of a marker of inflammation called tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). Diets 1 and 2, which both had a significantly higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats, resulted in much higher levels of TNF-alpha than the diet high in omega-3 fats from walnuts and flaxseed.

Practical Tip: To decrease excessive bone breakdown and protect bone health, make omega-3-rich flaxseed and walnuts, as well as cold water fish, frequent contributors to your healthy way of eating.

Reference:

Griel AE, Kris-Etherton PM, Hilpert KF, Zhao G, West SG, Corwin RL. An increase in dietary n-3 fatty acids decreases a marker of bone resorption in humans. Nutr J. 2007 Jan 16;6:2.

Related Topics:

Technorati Tags: health and wellness, diet, nutrition, bone health, osteoporosis, omega-3

Posted by: Joe Pizzorno, Jr., ND at 3:00 pm