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Originally published November 10 2009

Young boys need abundant omega-3s for strong bones, scientists find

by S. L. Baker, features writer

(NaturalNews) Regular readers of NaturalNews have long been aware of the importance of adequate omega-3 fatty acids in the diet ( These healthy fats, abundant in cold water fish like salmon, have been found to prevent and/or treat a diverse list of conditions -- from prostate cancer and dementia to heart problems and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Now a study from Sweden provides evidence of yet another benefit of omega-3s. Growing boys who eat foods rich in this "good fat" build denser, stronger bones.

Omega-3s have been linked to bone health before but previous studies have looked mostly at older adults and young men. This time, however, researchers investigated the effect of omega-3 intake on the bones of children -- specifically, 85 eight-year-old boys. Scientists in the department of pediatrics at Sweden's University of Gothenburg's Institute of Clinical Sciences used x-rays and blood samples to analyze markers indicating the bone mineralization density in the boys' bodies. They found youngsters with higher omega-3 intakes had far better bone mineral density, which is a sign of strong and healthy bones.

But parents should be aware of another key finding in this study, which was recently published in the British Journal of Nutrition. It isn't only abundant omega-3s in the diet that the scientists found to be important for boys' bone health. The ratio between omega-3s and another type of fatty acids, omega-6s, appears to be crucial. Those boys with a lower omega-3 intake and a higher omega-6 intake had the lowest bone density. Bottom line: consuming too many omega-6s, which are rampant in the typical American diet, thins bones while eating a diet rich in omega-3s builds bones.

Omega-6s are believed to weaken bones because they interact with a receptor in bone marrow cells known as PPAR-gamma that's thought to be involved in regulating bone density and formation. Unfortunately, the typical child in the U.S. and many European countries gets far too many omega-6s in his or her diet by eating fast and processed foods made with omega-6 loaded vegetable oils such as corn and soy.

In previous research, the University of Gothenburg scientists also found that milk plays an important role in whether or not youngsters have strong bones. However, the researchers' conclusion may come as a surprise to those who believe the milk industry advertisements that proclaim milk builds strong bones. The Swedish scientists found that children who drank full-fat milk regularly had lower bone mineral density readings. In fact, kids who seldom or never drank milk had stronger bones.

The explanation for this could lie in the fact milk -- in particular, full-fat milk from typically grain-fed dairy cows -- is loaded with omega-6 fatty acids. On the other hand, dairy cows that are naturally fed by grazing in a pasture tend to produce milk higher in omega-3s and lower in omega-6s.

Eriksson S, Mellstrim D, Strandvik B. "Fatty acid pattern in serum is associated with bone mineralization in healthy 8-year-old children." British Journal of Nutrition, 2009 Aug; 102(3):407-12.

Eriksson S. "Studies on nutrition, bone mineralization and metabolic markers in healthy 8-year-olds in an urban Swedish community." ISBN 978- 91-628-7847-4. Intellecta Infolog Goteborg, 2009.

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