Fish-based diet may delay bone loss, osteoporosis

Newly released clinical research has determined that eating fish rich in polyunsaturated fats may help older Americans ward off low bone density and osteoporosis.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that aging adults who consume the most polyunsaturated fats - like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids - are more likely to maintain adequate bone mineral density in their hips.

The study's authors came to this conclusion after analyzing the dietary intake and bone health of more than 600 adults enrolled in the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. However, they cautioned that not all polyunsaturated fats appear to have this effect, and that some may even have the opposite effect when consumed alone.

Many different types of fish are naturally packed with a variety of polyunsaturated fats. These include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA).

Previous studies have associated an increased intake of omega-3s with improved cardiovascular health, including lower triglyceride levels and blood pressure.

The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that scientists suspect that the consumption of omega-3s and omega-6s reduces the risk of osteoporosis by helping the body absorb calcium.

The current study found that, as a general principle, people who ate the most fish - three or more servings per week - were more likely to have healthy bone mineral levels in the hips, as measured by bone mass density scans of their upper femurs.

However, when the team made distinctions for particular polyunsaturated fats, this effect did not always hold true. Among older women who consumed more than the average amount of EPA and DHA, those who had the highest levels of AA tended to have higher bone density in their hips.

On the other hand, among men who consumed very little EPA and DHA, those who had the most AA in their diets lost more bone mass than those with the least dietary AA.

Researchers concluded that regularly consuming fish may delay the onset of osteoporosis, but that AA's positive effects may rely on the presence of EPA and DHA.
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