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Maturitas. 2002 May 20;42(1):13-22.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids. Is there a role in postmenopausal osteoporosis prevention?

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Centre for Metabolic Bone Disease, H. S Brocklehurst Building, Hull Royal Infirmary, 220-236 Anlaby Road, Hull, UK.



To review the effect of a diet supplemented with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) on prevention or treatment of osteoporosis.


MEDLINE (1966-April 2001), Allied Complementary Medicine (1985-2001), Cochrane Library and Database of Systematic Reviews (1st Quarter 2001) was searched. Five reviews and no systematic reviews were found on this topic in the Cochrane Library. Eleven relevant in-vivo studies were identified on the effect of these compounds on bone. Eight were animal studies and three were randomised control trials (RCT) in human.


There are two classes of PUFA designated as n-3 and n-6 with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). These two different types of PUFA differently influence prostaglandin formation and hence modulate bone metabolism differently. These are several in vitro and animal data suggesting that diet with a low n-6/n-3 ratio may have beneficial effects on bone mineral density. Only three, short-term, small studies have been performed in human so far. Two studies, one performed with bone markers and one with bone density showed a positive effect of PUFA on bone. While a third study showed no effect.


Preliminary, data have suggested that a diet with a low n-6/n-3 ratio may have beneficial effects on bone mineral density. Further studies are, however, required to fully assess the dose and type of PUFA to be used for optimum bone effects. This may be useful particularly for the prevention of disease in the elderly, since a diet rich in n-3 PUFA has been shown to have additional benefit on the cardiovascular, central nervous system and joints.

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