Specific effects of gamma-linolenic, eicosapentaenoic, and docosahexaenoic ethyl esters on bone post-ovariectomy in rats

Calcif Tissue Int. 2007 Dec;81(6):459-71. doi: 10.1007/s00223-007-9080-7. Epub 2007 Nov 17.


Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) are involved in the regulation of bone metabolism. Increased dietary consumption of n-3, and possibly some n-6, LCPUFAs may limit postmenopausal bone loss. The aim of this study was to determine the effects on bone of specific fatty acids within the n-3 and n-6 LCPUFA families in ovariectomized (OVX) rats. Rats were OVX or sham-operated and fed either a control diet (OVX and sham) or a diet supplemented with 0.5 g/kg body weight/day of gamma-linolenic (GLA), eicosapentaenoic (EPA), docosahexaenoic (DHA) ethyl esters or a mixture of all three (MIX) for 16 weeks. Bone mineral content (BMC), area, and density and plasma concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-I, vitamin D, selected biochemical markers of bone metabolism, and parathyroid hormone (PTH) were determined. The OVX-induced decrease in lumbar spine BMC was significantly attenuated by DHA but not by EPA or GLA supplementation or supplementation with a mixture of all three LCPUFAs. Endosteal circumferences of tibiae were significantly greater in DHA and EPA compared to OVX. Plasma C-terminal telopeptide of type I collagen and osteocalcin concentrations were not significantly different in the DHA group compared to OVX. Femur BMC decreased by a significantly greater amount in GLA than OVX, and final plasma PTH concentrations were significantly higher in GLA compared to all other groups. In conclusion, DHA ameliorated OVX-induced bone mineral loss. GLA exacerbated post-OVX bone mineral loss, possibly as a result of PTH-induced bone catabolism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Density
  • Bone and Bones / chemistry
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Ovariectomy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid / pharmacology*


  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid
  • 4,7,10,13,16,19-docosahexaenoic acid ethyl ester
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid