Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Could a Diet High in Fish and Flax Help Prevent Broken Hips?

Study Shows Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Blood Linked to Postmenopausal Bone Health

Higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood may reduce the risk for hip fractures in postmenopausal women, recent research suggests.

Scientists analyzed red blood cell samples from women with and without a history of having a broken hip. The study showed that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids from both plant and fish sources in those blood cells were associated with a lower likelihood of having fractured a hip.

In addition to omega-3s, the researchers looked at omega-6 fatty acids, which are generally plentiful in a Western diet. The study also showed that as the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s increased, so did the risk for hip fracture.

Though the study did not define the mechanisms for these relationships, the researchers hypothesized that inflammation may contribute to bone resorption, the breaking down of bone caused by the release of cells called osteoclasts.

“Inflammation is associated with an increased risk of bone loss and fractures, and omega-3 fatty acids are believed to reduce inflammation. So we asked if we would see fractures decrease in response to omega-3 intake,” said Rebecca Jackson, the study’s senior author and a professor of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at The Ohio State University.

“One thing that was critically important was that we didn’t use self-report of food intake, because there can be errors with that. We looked directly at the exposure of the bone cell to the fatty acids, which is at the red blood cell level,” said Jackson, also associate dean for clinical research in Ohio State’s College of Medicine. “Red blood cell levels also give an indication of long-term exposure to these fatty acids, which we took into account in looking for a preventive effect.”

Broken hips are the most common osteoporosis-related fractures, with an estimated 350,000 occurring annually in the United States. About 20 percent of people die in the year following a hip fracture.

The research is published in a recent issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

The observational study did not measure cause and effect, so the researchers say the findings are not definitive enough to suggest that taking omega-3 supplements would prevent hip fractures in postmenopausal women.

“We don’t yet know whether omega-3 supplementation would affect results for bone health or other outcomes,” said Tonya Orchard, assistant professor of human nutrition at Ohio State and first author of the study. “Though it’s premature to make a nutrition recommendation based on this work, I do think this study adds a little more strength to current recommendations to include more omega-3s in the diet in the form of fish, and suggests that plant sources of omega-3 may be just as important for preventing hip fractures in women.”

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are both polyunsaturated fatty acids and essential fatty acids, meaning they contribute to biological processes but must be consumed because the body does not produce them on its own. Previous research has suggested that while both types of fatty acids are linked to health benefits, omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and omega-6 fatty acids seem to have both anti- and pro-inflammatory effects.

The researchers used blood samples and hip fracture records from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a large national prospective study of postmenopausal women that enrolled participants between 1993 and 1998 and followed them for 15 years. For this new work, the sample consisted of red blood cell samples and records from 324 pairs of WHI participants, half of whom had broken their hips before Aug. 15, 2008, and the other half composed of age-matched controls who had never broken a hip.

The analysis showed that higher levels of total omega-3 fatty acids and two other specific kinds of omega-3s alone were associated with a lower risk of hip breaks in the study sample.

On the other hand, women who had the highest ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids had nearly twice the risk of hip fractures compared to women with the lowest ratios. The current typical American diet contains between 15 and 17 times more omega-6 than omega-3, a ratio that previous research has suggested should be lowered to 4-to-1, or even 2-to-1, by increasing omega-3s, to improve overall health. The primary omega-6 fatty acid in the diet is linoleic acid, which composes about 99 percent of Americans’ omega-6 intake and is found in corn, soybean, safflower and sunflower oils.

The specific omega-3 sources associated with lower risk for broken hips were ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which comes from plant sources such as flaxseed oil and some nuts, and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which is found in fatty types of fish. The other marine-sourced omega-3, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), on its own did not have a significant link to lower hip-fracture risk, “but all three omega-3s were in the protective direction,” Orchard said.

Jackson, who was a vice chair of the WHI for more than a decade, said continuing analyses of data from the WHI will dig down to the genetic influences on metabolism and absorption of nutrients, and whether such genetic differences could affect health risk factors in postmenopausal women.

This work was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The WHI was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Co-authors include Steven Ing of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism; Bo Lu of the Division of Biostatistics; and Martha Belury of the Department of Human Nutrition, all at Ohio State; as well as Karen Johnson of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Jean Wactawski-Wende of the State University of New York, Buffalo.

Contacts: Tonya Orchard, (614) 292-7241; or Rebecca Jackson, (614) 293-4041;

Written by Emily Caldwell, (614) 292-8310;

Tonya Orchard | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>