Eat the Right Fat to Age Better

Omega 3 fatty acid supplements may help preserve telomeres and affect aging

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You may have heard of the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, but with so much nutritional hype out there, benefits can be difficult to determine. Not all fat is bad and you might be surprised how good some of it could be.

Information from a new study suggests that supplements of omega-3 fatty acid, a type of fat, could slow some effects of aging and have other related health benefits.

More specifically, the ratio of fatty acids in the blood was linked to telomere lengthening, a biological marker for aging.

"Add more natural foods to your diet."

"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, PhD, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State.

The study consisted of 106 overweight or obese middle-aged adults who lead sedentary lifestyles. Their average age was 51. Over a period of four months, the participants took daily supplements.

One-third of participants took 2.5 grams of active omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), while another third took a smaller 1.5 gram dose. The final third of participants took a placebo which included the fat content of a typical American diet.

The typical American diet includes omega-6 fatty acids, but little omega-3. This research claims there is an effect on your DNA linked to the ratio between these two types of fat in your blood.

A DNA marker, called a telomere, becomes shorter each time a cell in your body reproduces. This shortening is linked to many health problems related to aging. However, the participants in this study with lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratios had telomeres that became longer.

The researchers also found that both groups taking the omega-3 supplements showed lower levels of inflammation and oxidative stress in the circulatory system. Basically, these participants showed lower indicators of risk for age-related diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

"This finding strongly suggests that inflammation is what's driving the changes in the telomeres," adds Kiecolt-Glaser.

The study was published online September 23, 2012, in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity and was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

OmegaBrite supplied the supplements as an unrestricted gift but did not participate in the study design, results or publication. Study co-authors Blackburn, Epel and Lin are co-founders of Telome Health Inc., a telomere measurement company.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 22, 2012
Last Updated:
June 12, 2013