The effects of n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on bone formation and growth factors in adolescent boys

Pediatr Res. 2012 Jun;71(6):713-9. doi: 10.1038/pr.2012.28. Epub 2012 Feb 15.


Introduction: Animal studies indicate that n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) increase bone formation. To our knowledge, no studies have examined this in growing humans. This study investigated whether bone mass and markers of bone formation and growth were (i) associated with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) status and (ii) affected by fish oil supplementation, in adolescent boys.

Methods: Seventy-eight healthy, slightly overweight 13- to 15-y-old boys were randomly assigned to breads with DHA-rich fish oil (1.1 g/d n-3 LCPUFA) or control for 16 wk. Whole-body bone mineral content (BMC), bone area (BA), bone mineral density (BMD), plasma osteocalcin, and growth factors were measured at wk 0 and wk 16, as well as diet, physical activity, and n-3 LCPUFA status in erythrocytes.

Results: Fish oil strongly increased DHA status (P = 0.0001). No associations were found between DHA status and BMC, BA, BMD, or the markers of bone formation and growth at baseline. Furthermore, the fish oil intervention did not affect any of the outcomes as compared with control. However, dose-response analyses revealed a positive association between changes in DHA status and plasma insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) during intervention (β = 0.24, P = 0.03, n = 78).

Discussion: DHA status and fish oil supplementation were not associated with bone mass or markers of bone formation in adolescent boys, but IGF-1 increased with increasing DHA status.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Fish Oils / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / blood
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / blood*
  • Male
  • Osteocalcin / blood
  • Osteogenesis / drug effects*
  • Osteogenesis / physiology*
  • Overweight / blood*
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / physiopathology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Osteocalcin
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I