Conventional wisdom tells us we should cut the fat in our diet, and indeed, too much of the wrong kinds of fat can be detrimental to bone health by decreasing calcium absorption. On average, we Americans consume more than one-third of our calories as fat.
But what we are just beginning to appreciate is that our bodies require more of certain fats, just as they require certain vitamins and minerals, proteins, fiber, and water. These fats are called essential fatty acids because they are not produced by the body and must be consumed in the diet or by supplementation. These fatty acids are essential for nerve functioning, hormone production, for the maintenance and functioning of the brain, and for everyday energy production.
Fatty acids also play multiple roles in bone structure, function, and development. Fats are required for proper calcium metabolism, and they are essential components of all membranes, including those of cartilage and bone.
As explained by essential fatty acid researcher Dr. David Horrobin, EFA’s increase calcium absorption from the gut, in part by enhancing the effects of vitamin D. They also regulate and reduce urinary excretion of calcium, possibly by reducing production of pro-inflammatory molecules called prostaglandins. In fact, the role omega-3 fatty acids play in countering inflammation is arguably their most bone-critical mission.
EFA’s have also been found to increase calcium deposition in bone, which is not surprising since bone calcification must take place in the presence of a type of fat known as a phospholipid. Finally, essential fatty acids appear to improve bone strength, possibly by fomenting collagen synthesis.