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Molecules. 2013 Nov 15;18(11):14203-27. doi: 10.3390/molecules181114203.

Investigating the role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in bone development using animal models.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 1A8, Canada.


Incorporating n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in the diet may promote the development of a healthy skeleton and thereby reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis in later life. Studies using developing animal models suggest lowering dietary n-6 PUFA and increasing n-3 PUFA intakes, especially long chain n-3 PUFA, may be beneficial for achieving higher bone mineral content, density and stronger bones. To date, the evidence regarding the effects of α-linolenic acid (ALA) remain equivocal, in contrast to evidence from the longer chain products, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This review reports the results of investigations into n-3 PUFA supplementation on bone fatty acid composition, strength and mineral content in developing animal models as well as the mechanistic relationships of PUFA and bone, and identifies critical areas for future research. Overall, this review supports a probable role for essential (ALA) and long chain (EPA and DHA) n-3 PUFA for bone health. Understanding the role of PUFA in optimizing bone health may lead to dietary strategies that promote bone development and maintenance of a healthy skeleton.

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