Research: WEISS and colleagues,

Listed in Issue 120


WEISS and colleagues, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA, have studied the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids and its connection to bone mineral density.


Studies suggest that n-3 fatty acids can protect against several diseases, notably heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. A role in the health of bones has also been suggested. The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids in diet and bone mineral density.


1532 men and women over the age of 45 participated in this study. Diet was evaluated with a food-frequency questionnaire, and bone density was measured at hip and spine with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. The data were analyzed by multiple-adjusted linear regression.


There was a significant inverse association between the ratio of dietary linoleic acid (an important precursor of n-6 acids) to alpha-linolenic acid (an important precursor of n-3 acids) and bone density. In women, there was also a significant association between higher total n-6 to total n-3 intake and lower bone density.


These findings suggest that the relative amounts of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly the ration of n-6 to n-3 acids, may play a vital role in preserving skeletal integrity in older age.


Weiss LA, Barrett-Connor E, von Muhlen D. 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 81 (4): 934-938, Apr 2005.

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