Dr. C. Leigh Broadhurst on why and how this supplement is invaluable to a sedentary, nutrition-poor nation.

C. Leigh Broadhurst

February 21, 2014

3 Min Read
Fish Oil: The Joint Health Supplement for Those Who Don't Want to Bother

Joint health is the weakest link in overall bone health. Despite a generation of excessive calcium supplementation and cheese consumption, we havent made a dent in osteoporosis or hip fractures. By the time they reach their nineties, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will suffer a hip fracture. Fifty percent will have permanent disabilities, 15 to 25 percent will require nursing home care, and 10 to 20 percent will die within a year. Most fractures in the elderly are preceded by years of sedentary living. And painful, inflamed, and/or arthritic joints are a leading cause of exercise avoidance. 

Unfortunately, low impact exercise yields low impact results. Research shows conclusively that joints, bones, muscles, and hearts must be stressed regularly and with some intensity in order to strengthen. Females and males establish peak bone mineral density (BMD) between ages of 10 to 20. In adulthood its possible to maintain BMD but not substantially increase it. Its imperative to exercise regularly and intensely throughout life to build a high peak BMD and retain it as you age.

Fortunately, theres a supplement that permanently reduces joint inflammation and increases bone strengthfish oil. Eating a fish-rich diet is associated with lower risk for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal disc pain, and bone fractures. A healthy diet contains a balance of two types of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA): the n-6 and n-3 series, in a roughly 5:1 ratio.

Millions of people suffer needlessly because typical diets in the U.S. and Canada have n-6/n-3 ratios closer to 50:1. What we need is less vegetable oil, fried foods, and fatty meats from livestock, and more seafood and fish/krill oil. The only vegan alternative is DHA-EPA oils from algal sources: humans convert only 1 percent of alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3; found in flax, hemp, walnut oils) to DHA.

EPA, DHA and biochemicals derived from these n-3 PUFA are generally anti-inflammatory, while some biochemicals derived from the n-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid are pro-inflammatory. Since the same enzyme systems are used to convert n-3 and n-6 fatty acids, our raging dietary torrent of vegetable oil and fatty meat n-6 PUFA floods the pro-inflammatory pathways. Joints, our weakest linksknees in particularare usually the first areas that become painfully inflamed.

Remarkably, biochemicals derived from DHA and EPA also work to increase BMD during growth years, repair and synthesize bone tissue throughout life, and slow bone resorption in later years. Simply put, maintenance of the skeletal system is optimized with relatively low n-6/n-3 PUFA ratios.

A standard feature of our evolutionary diet, lower n-6/n-3 is readily achievable today with specific dietary controls and supplements. A great deal of joint pain and bone weakness considered a foregone consequence of aging is entirely avoidable.


1.  Bischoff-Ferrari HADawson-Hughes BBaron JA et al. (2007).  Calcium intake and hip fracture risk in men and women: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies and randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr 86, 1780-1790.

2.  Lanham-New SA (2008).  The balance of bone health: tipping the scales in favor of potassium-rich, bicarbonate-rich foods.  J Nutr 138, 172S-177S.

3.  Bischoff-Ferrari HAWillett WCWong JB et al. (2005).  Fracture prevention with vitamin D supplementation: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials JAMA 293, 2257-2264.

And you may also find this study helpful as well.   

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