The average North American gets too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3 fatty acids, at a ratio of approximately 10:1. However, a much lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids —a ratio of 5:1 — is believed to promote cardiovascular health, improve memory and, as the following study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry suggests, protect bone health.

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine and Purdue University report that maintaining a proper balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids may ward off bone loss associated with post-menopausal osteoporosis. Their study assessed bone mineral content and bone mineral density in female rats (half of which had undergone a procedure that mimics menopause). In the study, groups of these rats were fed diets containing different ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. After 12 weeks, those with the lowest ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in their diet experienced significantly less bone loss than those in the other dietary groups. The researchers believe that omega-3s minimize bone loss with estrogen deficiency because of their anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is caused by a number of compounds, including cytokines.

Omega-6 fats are found in grains and many foods that contain vegetable oils. Omega-3 fats are found in nuts, flax seeds and cold-water fish such as salmon.

Source: Purdue University News, July 11, 2005