A new study finds that older people who follow a diet that consists of greater amounts of fish show a better means of preserving bone density as compared to people who do not eat as much fish. This may prove beneficial since age may lead to the bones getting more porous and fragile with a tendency to break or fracture easily over time. Preserving bone density ensures that bone loss and breakage may be substantially reduced.
Researchers from Northeastern University looked into surveys and collected data from the 1980’s and the 90’s consisting of the eating habits of more than 600 seniors living in Framingham, Massachusetts. Measurements of their bone density in the hips were also taken 4 years apart. The results indicated a possible association with bone density and a high fish diet.
The findings showed that women who ate three or more servings of dark fish like salmon and mackerel on a weekly basis also displayed lesser bone loss when their hip measurements were taken four years later as compared to women who ate lesser amounts of fish in their diet. The findings were also similar for those in men.
The study was not able to show that a fish diet was the cause of the difference between the incidences of bone loss in the study groups. The study rather showed that the said diet and bone density may be somehow associated with each other.
The researchers believe that the association may be due to the presence of different oils in the fish that may help protect bones from losing mass over time. “We think omega 3 fatty acids from fish help to prevent bone loss”, according to lead researcher Dr. Katherine Tucker, a professor at Northeastern University.
Fish are known to be rich in EPA and DHA, oils that belong to a group of omega 3 fatty acids. But the researchers further noted that it was the balance in the fish oils consumed that may be linked to the better bone density in people who follow a diet high in fish.
The researchers also tried to break down the amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids that the subjects were getting in their diet. It further showed that high levels of an omega 6 fatty acid known as arachidonic acid was linked to a reduced bone loss in the women studied, but only when the women also consumed higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids.
“If you have very low levels of arachidonic acid, then you didn’t see the benefits of the omega 3s,” said Tucker. “You can’t just take a supplement of one and have a good effect,” she further added.
Furthermore, balance of fish oil consumption also seems important. Researchers further found that men who had high arachidonic acid in their diet but with low omega 3’s were tied to greater loss of bone. Although there’s no exact formula yet on the balance of consumption between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to get the beneficial effect, the researchers believe that eating fish seems to provide a good balance.