Exercise and Omega-3s Increase Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women

Sources of omega 3 fatty acids: flaxseeds, avocado, oil capsules and flaxseed oilThere’s mounting evidence that regular exercise and a diet that includes healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, strongly impact bone health.

In a study, UK researchers examined the effects of long-term aerobic exercise and omega-3 (N-3) supplements in postmenopausal women. They looked at:

  • serum inflammatory markers
  • bone mineral density (BMD)
  • bone biomarkers

The results of the study were published in the October 2011 edition of the journal Nutrition & Metabolism. Researchers recorded their findings in the article “Long-term aerobic exercise and omega-3 supplementation modulate osteoporosis through inflammatory mechanisms in post-menopausal women: a randomized, repeated measures study.”

The study included 79 healthy sedentary postmenopausal women who were 58 to 78 years old.

Participants were randomized to 1of 4 groups:

  • exercise+supplement group (E+S, n=21)
  • exercise group (E, n=20)
  • supplement group (S, n=20)
  • control group (Con, n=18)

Those in the E+S and E groups did aerobic exercise, such as walking and jogging, up to 65% of their maximum heart rate for 3 times a week for 24 weeks. Patients in the E+S and S groups took 1,000 mg of N-3 daily for 24 weeks.

The following were measured at baseline, the end of week 12, and the end of week 24:

  • 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25 Vit D)
  • calcitonin (CT)
  • C-telopeptide (CTX)
  • Estrogen
  • interleukin (IL) 6
  • lumbar spine (L2-L4) and femoral neck BMD
  • osteocalcin
  • parathyroid hormone (PTH)
  • prostaglandin (PG) E2
  • serum tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha

What Did Researchers Learn about Exercise and Omega-3s in Postmenopausal Women?
The research team found that in the E+S group after the 24-week intervention, serum estrogen, osteocalcin, 1,25 Vit D, CT, and BMD in L2-L4 and femoral neck measures increased (p<0.05). However, serum CTX, PTH, TNF-alpha, IL-6, and PGE2 measures decreased (p<0.05).

This was not seen in the E or S groups.

Investigators also found that L2-L4 and femoral neck BMD, estrogen, osteocalcin, and CT were not correlated (p<0.05) with TNF-alpha and PGE2 measures and that PTH was correlated with IL-6, but CT was not (p<0.05).

According to the research team, this study indicates that long-term aerobic exercise plus omega-3 dietary supplements have a synergistic effect in controlling inflammation and increasing BMD in the femoral neck and lumbar spine in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.