Category Archives: Alpha Linolenic Acid

High Omega-6:Omega-3 Ratios Increase Fracture Risk and Doubles Risk for Ratios > 6


The association of red blood cell n-3 and n-6 fatty acids with bone mineral density and hip fracture risk in the women’s health initiative.

Omega-3 (n-3) and omega-6 (n-6) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in red blood cells (RBCs) are an objective indicator of PUFA status and may be related to hip fracture risk. The primary objective of this study was to examine RBC PUFAs as predictors of hip fracture risk in postmenopausal women. A nested case-control study (n = 400 pairs) was completed within the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) using 201 incident hip fracture cases from the Bone Mineral Density (BMD) cohort, along with 199 additional incident hip fracture cases randomly selected from the WHI Observational Study. Cases were 1:1 matched on age, race, and hormone use with non-hip fracture controls. Stored baseline RBCs were analyzed for fatty acids using gas chromatography. After removing degraded samples, 324 matched pairs were included in statistical analyses. Stratified Cox proportional hazard models were constructed according to case-control pair status; risk of fracture was estimated for tertiles of RBC PUFA. In adjusted hazard models, lower hip fracture risk was associated with higher RBC α-linolenic acid (tertile 3 [T3] hazard ratio [HR]: 0.44; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.23-0.85; p for linear trend 0.0154), eicosapentaenoic acid (T3 HR: 0.46; 95% CI, 0.24-0.87; p for linear trend 0.0181), and total n-3 PUFAs (T3 HR: 0.55; 95% CI, 0.30-1.01; p for linear trend 0.0492). Conversely, hip fracture nearly doubled with the highest RBC n-6/n-3 ratio (T3 HR: 1.96; 95% CI, 1.03-3.70; p for linear trend 0.0399). RBC PUFAs were not associated with BMD. RBC PUFAs were indicative of dietary intake of marine n-3 PUFAs (Spearman’s rho = 0.45, p < 0.0001), total n-6 PUFAs (rho = 0.17, p < 0.0001) and linoleic acid (rho = 0.09, p < 0.05). These results suggest that higher RBC α-linolenic acid, as well as eicosapentaenoic acid and total n-3 PUFAs, may predict lower hip fracture risk. Contrastingly, a higher RBC n-6/n-3 ratio may predict higher hip fracture risk in postmenopausal women.

Orchard TS, Ing SW, Lu B, Belury MA…
J. Bone Miner. Res. Mar 2013
PMID: 23018646 | Free Full Text

The full text has a nice chart showing the hazard ratios for the various fatty acids they looked at.

The Omega-6:Omega-3 ratios and their respective hazard ratios were:

Omega-6:Omega-3 Ratio 1.48–5.00 5.01–6.07 6.08–10.59
Hazard Ratio 1.00 1.28 (0.71–2.30) 1.96 (1.03–3.70)

[Hazard Ratios] for hip fracture by tertiles of RBC FAs with multivariate adjustment for risk factors per Robbins and colleagues37 are reported in Table 3. No significant associations were found between RBC total SFA, MUFA, or PUFA and risk of hip fracture. However, there was a significant inverse linear association between hip fracture risk and total n-3 FAs in RBCs (p for linear trend 0.0492). When examining individual n-3 FAs, there was a 56% lower relative risk of hip fracture with highest RBC ALA (tertile 3 [T3] hazard ratio [HR]: 0.44; 95% CI, 0.23–0.85; p for linear trend 0.0154), and a 54% lower hip fracture risk with highest EPA levels (T3 HR: 0.46; 95% CI, 0.24–0.87; p for linear trend 0.0181) compared to T1. Neither DHA nor the n-3 index was significantly associated with risk of fracture. In contrast, hip fracture risk nearly doubled in women in the highest tertile of the n-6/n-3 FA ratio (HR T3: 1.96; 95% CI, 1.03–3.70; p for linear trend 0.0399). Because the n-6/n-3 FA ratio in RBCs primarily reflects the ratio of AA to EPA and DHA, we further examined the relation of the AA/EPA + DHA ratio to hip fracture risk. Similar to the n-6/n-3 FA ratio, a higher AA/EPA + DHA ratio produced higher HR for hip fracture, but the association was not significant (T3 HR: 1.69; 95% CI, 0.86–3.31; p for linear trend 0.1242). Although the direction of association between total n-6 FAs, AA, and hip fracture was toward harm, there was no significant relation of either total n-6 FAs or AA with hip fracture. There was an inverse direction of association between LA and hip fracture risk, but again, this was not statistically significant (T3 HR: 0.77; 95% CI, 0.40–1.49; p for linear trend 0.5140). Inclusion of additional potential confounders (alcohol consumption, total energy intake, total calcium intake, total vitamin D intake, and multivitamin use) in the model produced similar results….

Review: Flaxseed Oil, but not Flax Lignans, may Help Bones


Implications of dietary α-linolenic acid in bone health.

Recent evidence implies the benefit of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in bone health. Although eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, present in fish oil, have been extensively researched, much less is known about the influence of α-linolenic acid (ALA; present in flaxseeds), a metabolic precursor of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, on bone. Our objective was to evaluate the published literature and distinguish between the individual effects of flaxseed oil and flax lignans on bone to elucidate the exact role of ALA in skeletal biology. The search was conducted in several databases resulting in 129 articles of which 30 were eligible for inclusion in this review. The studies showed that consumption of whole flaxseeds did not lead to a marked improvement of osteoporotic bones in humans and animals. However, when combined with estrogen therapy, flaxseed supplementation offered an extra benefit to bone in animal models. Similar results were found in studies conducted with flaxseed oil (predominantly ALA), but the favorable role of flaxseed oil was more obvious in various pathologic conditions (kidney disease, obesity with insulin resistance), resulting in improved bone properties. In contrast, despite a marginal estrogenic effect, the consumption of flax lignans resulted in little benefit to bone and the effect was limited to early life of females only in animal models. Based on the available studies, it could be concluded that supplementation with flaxseeds may contribute to some improvement in osteoporotic bone properties but the bone-protective effect may be attributed to ALA, not to the lignan fraction of flaxseeds.

Kim Y, Ilich JZ
PMID: 21726979

Omega-3 from Flaxseed or Nuts may Decrease Resorption


An increase in dietary n-3 fatty acids decreases a marker of bone resorption in humans.

Human, animal, and in vitro research indicates a beneficial effect of appropriate amounts of omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) on bone health. This is the first controlled feeding study in humans to evaluate the effect of dietary plant-derived n-3 PUFA on bone turnover, assessed by serum concentrations of N-telopeptides (NTx) and bone-specific alkaline phosphatase (BSAP). Subjects (n = 23) consumed each diet for 6 weeks in a randomized, 3-period crossover design: 1) Average American Diet (AAD; [34% total fat, 13% saturated fatty acids (SFA), 13% monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), 9% PUFA (7.7% LA, 0.8% ALA)]), 2) Linoleic Acid Diet (LA; [37% total fat, 9% SFA, 12% MUFA, 16% PUFA (12.6% LA, 3.6% ALA)]), and 3) alpha-Linolenic Acid Diet (ALA; [38% total fat, 8% SFA, 12% MUFA, 17% PUFA (10.5% LA, 6.5% ALA)]). Walnuts and flaxseed oil were the predominant sources of ALA. NTx levels were significantly lower following the ALA diet (13.20 +/- 1.21 nM BCE), relative to the AAD (15.59 +/- 1.21 nM BCE) (p < 0.05). Mean NTx level following the LA diet was 13.80 +/- 1.21 nM BCE. There was no change in levels of BSAP across the three diets. Concentrations of NTx were positively correlated with the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFalpha for all three diets. The results indicate that plant sources of dietary n-3 PUFA may have a protective effect on bone metabolism via a decrease in bone resorption in the presence of consistent levels of bone formation.

Griel AE, Kris-Etherton PM, Hilpert KF, Zhao G…
Nutr J 2007
PMID: 17227589 | Free Full Text

Omega-3 Promotes Bone in Young Rats


Consumption of different sources of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids by growing female rats affects long bone mass and microarchitecture.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω-3 PUFAs) consumption has been reported to improve bone health. However, sources of ω-3 PUFAs differ in the type of fatty acids and structural form. The study objective was to determine the effect of various ω-3 PUFAs sources on bone during growth. Young (age 28d) female Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned (n=10/group) to a high fat 12% (wt) diet consisting of either corn oil (CO) or ω-3 PUFA rich, flaxseed (FO), krill (KO), menhaden (MO), salmon (SO) or tuna (TO) for 8 weeks. Bone mass was assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and bone microarchitecture by micro-computed tomography (μCT). Bone turnover markers were measured by enzyme immunoassay. Lipid peroxidation was measured by calorimetric assays. Results showed that rats fed TO, rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6ω-3) had higher (P<0.009) tibial bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC) and lower (P=0.05) lipid peroxidation compared to the CO-fed rats. Reduced lipid peroxidation was associated with increased tibial BMD (r2=0.08, P=0.02) and BMC (r2=0.71, P=0.01). On the other hand, rats fed FO or MO, rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3ω-3), improved bone microarchitecture compared to rats fed CO or SO. Serum osteocalcin was higher (P=0.03) in rats fed FO compared to rats fed SO. Serum osteocalcin was associated with improved trabecular bone microarchitecture. The animal study results suggest consuming a variety of ω-3 PUFA sources to promote bone health during the growth stage.

Lukas R, Gigliotti JC, Smith BJ, Altman S…
Bone Sep 2011
PMID: 21672645

Alpha Linolenic Acid Increases Bone Strength in Hens


Reduced bone breakage and increased bone strength in free range laying hens fed omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplemented diets.

The omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are the immediate precursors to a number of important mediators of immunity, inflammation and bone function, with products of omega-6 generally thought to promote inflammation and favour bone resorption. Western diets generally provide a 10 to 20-fold deficit in omega-3 PUFAs compared with omega-6, and this is thought to have contributed to the marked rise in incidence of disorders of modern human societies, such as heart disease, colitis and perhaps osteoporosis. Many of our food production animals, fed on grains rich in omega-6, are also exposed to a dietary deficit in omega-3, with perhaps similar health consequences. Bone fragility due to osteoporotic changes in laying hens is a major economic and welfare problem, with our recent estimates of breakage rates indicating up to 95% of free range hens suffer breaks during lay.
Free range hens housed in full scale commercial systems were provided diets supplemented with omega-3 alpha linolenic acid, and the skeletal benefits were investigated by comparison to standard diets rich in omega-6.
There was a significant 40-60% reduction in keel bone breakage rate, and a corresponding reduction in breakage severity in the omega-3 supplemented hens. There was significantly greater bone density and bone mineral content, alongside increases in total bone and trabecular volumes. The mechanical properties of the omega-3 supplemented hens were improved, with strength, energy to break and stiffness demonstrating significant increases. Alkaline phosphatase (an osteoblast marker) and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (an osteoclast marker) both showed significant increases with the omega-3 diets, indicating enhanced bone turnover. This was corroborated by the significantly lower levels of the mature collagen crosslinks, hydroxylysyl pyridinoline, lysyl pyridinoline and histidinohydroxy-lysinonorleucine, with a corresponding significant shift in the mature:immature crosslink ratio.
The improved skeletal health in laying hens corresponds to as many as 68million fewer hens suffering keel fractures in the EU each year. The biomechanical and biochemical evidence suggests that increased bone turnover has enhanced the bone mechanical properties, and that this may suggest potential benefits for human osteoporosis.

Tarlton JF, Wilkins LJ, Toscano MJ, Avery NC…
Bone Feb 2013
PMID: 23142806