Background: Fatty acids (FAs) may be important dietary components that modulate osteoporotic fracture risk.

Objective: The objective was to examine FA intake in relation to osteoporotic fractures.

Design: The participants were postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative (n = 137,486). Total fractures were identified by self-report; hip fractures were confirmed by medical record review. FA intake was estimated from baseline food-frequency questionnaires and standardized to total caloric intake. No data on omega-3 (n–3) FA supplements were available. Cox proportional hazard models were constructed to estimate risk of fracture.

Results: Higher saturated FA consumption was associated with higher hip fracture risk [quartile 4 multivariate-adjusted hazard ratio (HR): 1.31; 95% CI: 1.11, 1.55; P for trend = 0.001]. Lower total fracture risk was associated with a higher monounsaturated FA intake (quartile 3 HR: 0.94; 95% CI: 0.89, 0.98; P for trend = 0.050) and polyunsaturated FA intake (quartile 4 HR: 0.95; 95% CI: 0.90, 0.99; P for trend = 0.019). Unexpectedly, higher consumption of marine n–3 FAs was associated with greater total fracture risk (quartile 4 HR: 1.07; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.12; P for trend = 0.010), whereas a higher n–6 FA intake was associated with a lower total fracture risk (quartile 4 HR: 0.94; 95% CI: 0.89, 0.98; P for trend 0.009).

Conclusions: These results suggest that saturated FA intake may significantly increase hip fracture risk, whereas monounsaturated and polyunsaturated FA intakes may decrease total fracture risk. In postmenopausal women with a low intake of marine n–3 FAs, a higher intake of n–6 FAs may modestly decrease total fracture risk.

This trial was registered at as NCT00000611.