Background: Several lines of evidence suggest that n-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of some chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Other research, mainly in animals, also suggests a role in bone health.
Objective: We aimed to investigate the association between the ratio of dietary n-6 to n-3 fatty acids and bone mineral density (BMD) in 1532 community-dwelling men and women aged 45-90 y.
Design: Between 1988 and 1992, dietary data were obtained through self-administered food-frequency questionnaires, and BMD was measured at the hip and spine with the use of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. A medical history was obtained and current medication use was validated. Age- and multiple-adjusted linear regression analyses were performed.
Results: There was a significant inverse association between the ratio of dietary linoleic acid to alpha-linolenic acid and BMD at the hip in 642 men, 564 women not using hormone therapy, and 326 women using hormone therapy; these results were independent of age, body mass index, and lifestyle factors. An increasing ratio of total dietary n-6 to n-3 fatty acids was also significantly and independently associated with lower BMD at the hip in all women and at the spine in women not using hormone therapy.
Conclusions: A higher ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids is associated with lower BMD at the hip in both sexes. These findings suggest that the relative amounts of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids may play a vital role in preserving skeletal integrity in older age.