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Tonya Orchard, PhD, RD, LD

Award Name TL1

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Relationship Between Fatty Acids and Fractures in Women

The OSU CCTS has awarded Tonya Orchard, PhD, RD, LD, with a TL1 award for her research involving the relationship between the consumption of certain fatty acids and the instances of hip fractures in post-menopausal women.

Orchard, who just completed her PhD, has been involved in the healthcare field for many years as a clinical dietician. Her preliminary doctoral project examined dietary consumption of fatty acids and how they were related to fracture risk using self-reported data from the Women’s Health Initiative.

Her second project, which she is currently working on, mirrors her interest and background in women’s health.

“[This] project is looking at red blood cell levels of fatty acids and how they relate to hip fracture risk in postmenopausal women,” Orchard said.

Osteoporosis-related fractures affect more than 1.4 million U.S. women annually. For postmenopausal women, chances of developing an osteoporosis-related fracture are 1 in 2 over a lifetime.

Orchard believes that increasing the intake of n-3 fatty acids, found in foods such as salmon, tuna, and walnuts, and decreasing the intake of n-6 fatty acids, found in foods such as corn and soybeans, may improve bone health in women.

“We know nutrition is important in many diseases,” Orchard said. “This is something that hasn’t been investigated before, as far as tissue levels and fat in relation to a very devastating bone disease.”

There is evidence that n-3 fatty acids are good for bone mineral density and decrease pro-inflammatory chemical messenger molecules that are important in bone remodeling.

Orchard and her team are conducting their study using samples from 800 post-menopausal women who were previously recruited through the Women’s Health Initiative. Of the 800 women, 400 had hip fractures and 400 did not, acting as the control group. The controls were matched on factors such as age and ethnicity.

“The n-3 and n-6 fatty acids you [consume] in your diet show up in your red blood cell membranes and other tissues in your body,” Orchard said. This makes analyzing red blood cell fatty acids an attractive and more accurate follow-up study to her initial project that relied upon self-reported food frequency data.

Orchard and her team began their lab analysis in January 2010 and hope to finish by the first week of this September.

“Anything that could modify the risk for osteoporotic fractures could be potentially very important,” Orchard said.

By Nicole Frie, Monday, August 23, 2010

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