Omega-3 fatty acids have demonstrated beneficial effects for heart, vision, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and mental health.
A study published in the March 2007 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that omega-3 fatty acids also benefit bone health in young men.
Researchers had blood samples taken from 78 healthy young men with an average age of 17 years who participated in the Northern Osteoporosis and Obesity Study. Researchers also measured the bone mineral density of the participants’ total body, hip, and spine. They then measured bone mineral density changes between 16 and 22 years of age and 22 and 24 years of age.
The researchers found that men with higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had a 27% increase in total body bone mineral density by the time they reached 22 years of age. There was also a 26% increase in spine bone mineral density between 16 and 22 years of age.
In addition to fatty fish and omega-3 supplements, Neptune krill oil is another important source of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids. This study did not measure omega-3 intake; only blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were measured. The researchers could therefore not make specific recommendations for omega-3 dosage for young men.
Nevertheless, they cited research showing that fish oil supplementation increases bone health in the elderly and concluded that “omega–3 fatty acids, especially DHA, are positively associated with bone mineral accrual (growth) and, thus, with peak bone mineral density in young men.” Citing other studies indicating beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on bone mineral density in other populations, researchers identified no reason that omega-3 fatty acids would not help bone accrual in other segments of the population.
BACKGROUND: Knowledge of the influence of nutritional intake on bone health is limited. Polyunsaturated fatty acids have been suggested to influence bone growth and modeling in humans, although data are sparse. OBJECTIVE: The objective was to investigate the role of fatty acids in bone accumulation and the attainment of peak bone mass in young men. DESIGN: The cohort studied consisted of 78 healthy young men with a mean age of 16.7 y at baseline. Bone mineral density (BMD; in g/cm(2)) of total body, hip, and spine was measured at baseline and at 22 and 24 y of age. Fatty acid concentrations were measured in the phospholipid fraction in serum at 22 y of age. RESULTS: Concentrations of n-3 fatty acids were positively associated with total BMD (r = 0.27, P = 0.02) and spine BMD (r = 0.25, P = 0.02) at 22 y of age. A positive correlation between n-3 fatty acid concentrations and the changes in BMD at the spine (r = 0.26, P = 0.02) was found between 16 and 22 y of age. Concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) were positively associated with total BMD (r = 0.32, P = 0.004) and BMD at the spine (r = 0.30, P = 0.008) at 22 y of age. A positive correlation was also found between DHA concentrations and the changes in BMD at the spine (r = 0.26, P = 0.02) between 16 and 22 y of age. CONCLUSION: The results showed that n-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, are positively associated with bone mineral accrual and, thus, with peak BMD in young men.
Högström M, Nordström P, Nordström A. n–3 Fatty acids are positively associated with peak bone mineral density and bone accrual in healthy men: the NO2 Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2007 Mar;85:803–7.