Fish oil could enhance your DNA for youth and longevity, according to new research from Ohio State University.
Taking enough omega-3 fatty acid supplements to change the balance of oils in the diet could slow a key biological process linked to aging, the study suggests.
Most overweight but healthy middle-aged and older adults who took omega-3 supplements for four months altered a ratio of their fatty acid consumption in a way that helped preserve tiny segments of DNA in their white blood cells, they discovered.
These segments, called telomeres, are known to shorten over time in many types of cells as a consequence of aging. In the study, lengthening of telomeres in immune system cells was more prevalent in people who substantially improved the ratio of omega-3s to other fatty acids in their diet.
Omega-3 supplementation also reduced oxidative stress, caused by excessive free radicals in the blood, by about 15 percent compared to effects seen in the placebo group.
“The telomere finding is provocative in that it suggests the possibility that a nutritional supplement might actually make a difference in aging,” said Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State and lead author of the study.
In another recent publication from this study, Kiecolt-Glaser and colleagues reported that omega-3 fatty acid supplements lowered inflammation in this same group of adults.
“Inflammation in particular is at the heart of so many health problems. Anything that reduces inflammation has a lot of potentially good spinoffs among older adults,” she said.
Study participants took either 2.5 grams or 1.25 grams of active omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are considered “good fats” that, when consumed in proper quantities, are associated with a variety of health benefits. The supplements were calibrated to contain a ratio of the two cold-water fish oil fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), of seven to one. Previous research has suggested that EPA has more anti-inflammatory properties than DHA.
The researchers say this combination of effects suggests that omega-3 supplements could represent a rare single nutritional intervention that has potential to lower the risk for a host of diseases associated with aging, such as coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Learn How Exercise Makes Cells Younger
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. Online 23 September 2012 “Omega-3 fatty acids, oxidative stress, and leukocyte telomere length: A randomized controlled trial” Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, Elissa S. Epel, Martha A. Belur, Rebecca Andridge, Jue Line, Ronald Glaser, William B. Malarkey, Beom Seuk Hwang, Elizabeth Blackburn
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.