The present study was conducted to determine whether provision of preformed dietary docosapentaenoic acid (DPAn-6) can replace DHA for normal long bone growth as assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry for mineral content (BMC).

A newly modified artificial rearing method was employed to generate n-3 fatty acid-deficient rats. Except the dam-reared (DR; 3.1 % alpha-linolenic acid) group, newborn pups were separated from their mothers at age 2 d and given artificial rat milk containing linoleic acid (LA), or LA supplemented with 1 % DHA (22 : 6n-3; DHA), 1 % DPAn-6 (DPA), or 1 % DHA plus 0.4 % DPAn-6 (DHA/DPA). The rats were later weaned onto similar pelleted diets. At adulthood, the rats were euthanised and bones (femur, tibia, and lumbar vertebrae) collected for tissue fatty acid analysis and bone mineral density (BMD) determination.

The analyses showed that long bones such as femur and tibia in DPAn-6-treated rats contained higher DPAn-6 content and generally had the lowest BMC and BMD values. Hence, DPAn-6 did not replace DHA for normal bone growth and maximal BMC in femur, indicating an indispensible role of DHA in bone health.

In conclusion, DHA accumulates in the osteoblast-rich and nerve-abundant periosteum of femur; DHA but not EPA appears to be a vital constituent of marrow and periosteum of healthy modelling bone; and both DHA and total n-3 PUFA strongly correlate to BMC.