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Omega-3's Linked to Healthier, Stronger Bones

May 29, 2010 | 47,771 views
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omega 3Increased intake of omega-3 fats, and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in particular, increases bone mineral content and produces healthier, stronger bones -- at least according to the results of a study with rats.

The findings did not extend to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), however.

Researchers used dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry to assess bone mineral content in the rats.

However, the omega-3 fat EPA also has its proponents in this regard, according to NutraIngredients:

“Scientists from NASA recently reported in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research that the omega-3 EPA may protect against bone loss during space flight, a result that challenges the [rat study] data.”

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Dr. Mercola's Comments:

If you needed yet another reason for getting enough omega-3s into your diet, you can now add improved bone health to your list.

According to this latest study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the omega-3 fat DHA “appears to be a vital constituent of marrow and enhances bone mineral content.” They did not, however, find evidence that EPA was a significant contributing factor.

NASA scientists, on the other hand, have also published a study recently in which they claim that EPA “may protect against bone loss during space flight.”

Fortunately the majority of the public already understands and appreciates the importance of omega-3 fats, although many are still lagging when it comes to actually making sure they’re getting enough.

Omega-3 deficiency was recently revealed as the sixth biggest killer of Americans, responsible for up to 96,000 premature deaths each year, so increasing your omega-3 intake could very well be a life saving strategy for many.

The results of three studies published in 2008 also mirrored these results, indicating that low concentrations of EPA and DHA resulted in an increased risk of death from ALL causes, and accelerated cognitive decline.

Are You Getting Enough Omega-3?

Animal-based omega-3 fats, which come largely from fish and fish oils, are not eaten in abundance in the United States. What IS eaten in abundance are damaged omega-6 fats (think trans fats), which come from highly processed vegetable oils like corn, soy, and canola.

For optimal health, the ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 should be close to 1:1.

When damaged omega-6 fats predominate in your diet, you encourage inflammation in your body. And since so many diseases have now been linked to chronic inflammation, this really is one of the most important nutrition concerns you need to get right.

In fact, many scientists believe that one major reason for today's high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and some forms of cancer is this profound imbalance between your intake of damaged omega-6 and omega-3 fats.

Here is just a sampling of omega-3's heart healthy benefits:

  • Antiarrhythmic: counteracting or preventing cardiac arrhythmia
  • Antithrombotic: tending to prevent thrombosis (a blood clot within a blood vessel)
  • Antiatherosclerotic: preventing fatty deposits and fibrosis of the inner layer of your arteries from forming
  • Anti-inflammatory: counteracting inflammation (heat, pain, swelling, etc.)
  • Improves endothelial function: a major factor in promoting the growth of new blood vessels
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Lowers triglyceride concentrations

You can shift your ratio by consuming more high quality omega-3 fats, which promote the production of substances that fight inflammation, while also cutting down on unhealthy damaged omega-6 fats in vegetable oils.

The Significant Difference Between Plant- Versus Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats

Unfortunately there is still plenty of confusion about omega-3 fats as many “experts” fail to appreciate the importance of animal based omega-3 fats, as opposed to just eating plant based omega-3 fats that contain ALA.

It’s important to realize that while plant-based omega-3 fats are necessary, highly beneficial, and should be consumed as well, the evidence is very clear that they are not an acceptable substitute for animal based omega-3 fats.

This is primarily related to the fact that your body does not easily convert the ALA in plant based fats to the longer fats of EPA and DHA. And if you have diabetes, are overweight, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, your body has even more difficulty converting these fats.

Animal-based omega-3 fats contain two fatty acids crucial to your health, DHA and EPA. These two fatty acids, not ALA, are the ones that are pivotal in preventing heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases. Over 50 percent of your brain is also made up of DHA, which explains why it’s so essential for proper brain function and development.

Beware: Fish are No Longer the Optimal Source of Animal-Based Omega-3s

Ideally you would receive all the animal based omega-3s you’d need from eating sea food. Unfortunately, industrial pollution has changed the landscape, turning most of the world’s waters more or less toxic. 

Most seafood is now contaminated with heavy metals like mercury, and industrial toxins like PCBs, PDEs and dioxins. Time will tell the extent of harm the latest BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will do to fish stocks everywhere, as the oil now appears to be dispersing along the Gulf stream…


Because of the increasing difficulty in assuring the purity of fish and other seafood, the next best thing is to take a fish oil supplement. However, fish oil also has its drawbacks, both in terms of purity and effectiveness, and evidence suggests that there may be even better sources of animal-based omega-3 fats.

Additionally there is serious question as to just how oxidized or rancid many of the fish oils are, and there simply are not enough fish to supply the world with fish oil. It is NOT at all a sustainable source of omega-3 fats.

My personal favorite is krill oil.

Krill, very tiny shrimp-like creatures, are the largest biomass on the planet, far exceeding the amount of fish (or any other animal, including humans) in the world. They are clearly the most sustainable source of animal-based omega-3 fats in the world today.

Additionally, because the krill fat is attached to phosphates, they are far more readily absorbed than fish oil, so you need FAR less. And they contain very powerful antioxidants, called astaxanthin, that help protect the highly perishable DHA and EPA fats, protecting and preserving them until they’re consumed.

Do’s and Don’ts for Bone Health

Now, omega-3s certainly are not the only nutrients that have been linked to strong healthy bones. Here are several helpful strategies and nutrients, as well as a list of things to avoid to optimize your bone health.



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