The essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) comprise 2 main classes: n–6 and n–3 fatty acids. The most common source of n–6 fatty acids is linoleic acid (LA), which is found in high concentrations in various vegetable oils. Arachidonic acid (AA), the 20-carbon n–6 fatty acid, is obtained largely by synthesis from LA in the body. The n–3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in fish and fish oils. The beneficial health effects of these two n–3 fatty acids were first described in the Greenland Eskimos, who consumed a high-seafood diet and had low rates of coronary heart disease, asthma, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and multiple sclerosis. Since that observation, the positive health attributes of n–3 fatty acids have been extended to include benefits related to cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis (1, 2)…

n–3 Fatty acids play an important role in health and disease (2) and are thought to favorably affect skeletal health as well. The diseases prevented or ameliorated by n–3 fatty acids are as follows: coronary heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, osteoporosis, and cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate. The attainment of peak bone mass in adolescence and the prevention of age-related osteoporosis are potential positive effects of n–3 fatty acids. Further elucidation of the physiologic effects of n–3 fatty acids on bone health, along with clinical trials of EPA and DHA to prevent or treat osteoporosis, is needed.

PMID: 17344483

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