Omega-3s and Exercise Have a Positive Effect on the Lumbar Spine

Research has proven that healthy dietary fats (eg, omega-3 fatty acids) and physical activity positively impact bone health. But what are the long-term effects of exercise and healthy fats on the spine?

Woman SmilingNew research out of the UK looked at the effects of long-term aerobic exercise and omega-3 (N-3) supplementation on the lumbar spine and the femoral neck. They measured serum inflammatory markers, bone mineral density (BMD), and bone biomarkers in postmenopausal women.

Their results appeared in the October 2011edition of Nutrition & Metabolism in the article “Long-term aerobic exercise and omega-3 supplementation modulate osteoporosis through inflammatory mechanisms in post-menopausal women: a randomized, repeated measures study.”

There were 79 healthy sedentary postmenopausal women (58 to 78 years old) who participated in this study.

Study participants were randomized to 1 of 4 groups:

  • exercise+supplement (E+S, n=21)
  • exercise (E, n=20)
  • supplement (S, n=20)
  • control (Con, n=18)

Participants in the E+S and E groups did aerobic exercise (eg, walking, jogging) 3 times a week for 24 weeks. During exercise, they reached up to 65% of their maximum heart rate.

Patients in the E+S and S groups took 1,000 mg/d N-3 for 24 weeks.

The following were measured at baseline, at the end of week 12, and the end of week 24:

  • 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25 Vit D)
  • bone mineral density (BMD) in the lumbar spine (L2-L4) and femoral neck
  • calcitonin (CT)
  • C-telopeptide (CTX)
  • estrogen
  • interleukin (IL) 6
  • osteocalcin
  • parathyroid hormone (PTH)
  • prostaglandin (PG) E2
  • serum tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha

The research team found that serum estrogen, osteocalcin, 1,25 Vit D, CT, BMD for L2-L4 and femoral neck measures increased (p<0.05) in the E+S group after 24 weeks. They also found that serum CTX, PTH, TNF-alpha, IL-6, and PGE2 decreased (p<0.05) after 24 weeks in this group, but this was not seen in the E or S groups.

Furthermore, L2-L4 and femoral neck BMD, estrogen, osteocalcin, and CT were negatively (p<0.05) associated with TNF-alpha and PGE2. PTH correlated positively with IL-6, while CT correlated negatively with IL-6 (p<0.05).

The researchers concluded that long-term aerobic exercise in addition to omega-3 supplementation have a synergistic effect in easing inflammation levels and enhancing BMD in postmenopausal who have osteoporosis.

Updated on: 08/18/16
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