Omega-3 may protect against age-related chromosome damage

New research from the Ohio State University College of Medecine suggests omega-3 supps can reverse telomere shortening in cells - a key sign of aging. 

An Ohio State University College of Medicine study published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity shows omega-3 supplementation can reverse telomere shortening in cells – a key sign of aging.

The double-blind study conducted using 106 overweight and sedentary adults showed that not only were telomeres lengthened in the omega-3 subjects, but oxidative stress was also reduced. Telomeres are found at the ends of chromosomes inside cells. Many scientists liken telomeres to the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Each time a cell divides, telomeres get a little bit shorter. Study author Ron Glaser says, "If that plastic comes off, the shoelace unravels…In the same way, every time a cell divides, it loses a little bit of its DNA at the ends, and over time, that can cause significant problems." Shorter telomeres are associated with several age-related diseases.

The Ohio State University study focused on the effects of balancing omega-6 and omega-3 consumption. Participants were given 2.5 grams of omega-3, half that dose, or a placebo daily. Both omega-3 groups showed lengthening of telomeres, but the greatest effect was shown in those participants who showed a smaller omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. The researchers also found that the omega-3 groups had 15% lower levels of a compound that indicates oxidative stress in their blood. Oxidative stress is caused by the destructive effects of free radicals on cells, and it is associated with overall aging as well as many diseases. In addition, study participants who were given omega-3’s had decreased levels of a key inflammation marker. The study’s authors say the findings strongly suggest it is the decrease in inflammation that caused the lengthening of the telomeres.

This study is great news for those concerned about preventing age-related damage and disease. As the study’s lead author Jan Kiecolt-Glaser states, "The telomere finding is provocative in that it suggests the possibility that a nutritional supplement might actually make a difference in aging."

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