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A diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids and low in omega 6 fatty acids reduces the risk of chronic diseases. A diet skewed in favor of omega 6 fatty acids with less omega 3 fatty acids leads to reduced bone mass density.

Consuming a diet rich in fish can lead to strong bones

A study conducted by Dr. Katherine Tucker, a professor at Northeastern University along with her fellow researchers has concluded that consuming a diet rich in fish can lead to strong bones.  Eating habits of more than 600 elderly people living in Framingham, Massachusetts between 1980 and 1990 was studied in the above mentioned study. The bone density of the hip region, of all the subjects taking part in the study, was measured at an interval of four years. It was found that the bones did not become stronger than they were at a young age, but fish rich diet helped in preserving the bone density over a time. So the old people consuming large amount of fish in their food for a long duration of time had comparatively stronger bones than the people who did not consume fish.

It was found that eating at least three or more servings of salmon or mackerel every week, lead to a greater preservation of bone density in the women after four years. Similarly, men eating dark fish or tuna three times per week also suffered from less bone loss.

Over the years, the bones tend to lose their mass and become fragile as a result of osteoporosis. However, a fish rich diet protects the bones from losing mass. The researchers reached to a conclusion that the ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids present in fish is just right to prevent bone loss and to preserve the bone density.

The omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids present in fish are good for bones

Not all fat is necessarily bad for us. Certain fatty acids perform important protective functions in our body. Our body cannot manufacture all the fatty acids required by us. Therefore, we have to include them in our diet. These fatty acids are called as “essential fatty acids.”Omega 3 and omega 6 are two categories of essential fatty acids. Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is an essential omega 3 fatty acid, found in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, flaxseed and beans; and is a precursor of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docohexaenoic acid (DHA). The latter two are found in abundant quantity in cold water fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring. Linoleic acid (LA) is an omega 6 fatty acid and is found in cereal grains, meat, poultry, and most processed foods.

A typical American diet is loaded heavily in favor of omega 6 fatty acids as compared to omega 3 fatty acids in an approximate ratio of 10:1.

Earlier studies have indicated that a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids and low in omega 6 fatty acids reduces the risk of chronic diseases. A diet skewed in favor of omega 6 fatty acids with less omega 3 fatty acids leads to reduced bone mass density.

The omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids present in fish are good for bones. Both these fatty acids are believed to be in an adequate balance in a fish rich diet which is perfect for bone health. According to American Heart Association, people should consume at least 2 servings of fish every week for a long duration of time to observe its beneficial effects on the bone density.

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  • Lauren A Weiss, Elizabeth Barrett-Connor and Denise von Mühlen. Ratio of n–6 to n–3 fatty acids and bone mineral density in older adults: the Rancho Bernardo Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 81, No. 4, 934-938, April 2005