For years, researchers and nutritionists have been touting the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular health. Because omega-3s play such a big role in overall nutrition, some studies have found that they may also support joints, memory, vision, and immune health. Now scientists have added another benefit to the list: omega-3s may help preserve telomeres.
The Telomere/Longevity Connection
Many researchers use telomere length as an indicator of cell longevity. Telomeres are regions on DNA strands that help protect the rest of your genetic information every time your cells replicate. When telomeres get too short, more errors are prone to occur during cell replication, which can shorten cell life—and your overall lifespan.
In a five-year study on 608 patients who had a history of poor heart health, cardiologists found that patients who had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their white blood cells experienced less telomere shortening over the five-year period compared to patients who had lower omega-3 levels.
Omega-3 from Fish Oil More Beneficial
Omega-3s can be obtained from a variety of plant and animal sources, but omegas from fatty fish, such as sardines and salmon, have been found to have the greatest health advantages, which is why the researchers in this study used fish-oil-based omega-3s.
Since initial results have been so promising in people with preexisting cardiovascular health challenges, the researchers stated that double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies would provide further insight into the omega-3/telomere connection.
In the meantime, omega-3 fish oils have loads of other health advantages, so if you’re already taking a fish oil supplement, continue doing so to rack up as many health benefits as you can.
- Burton S. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Are Linked to Longevity. The Wall Street Journal. Jan 10 2010: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703837004575013393566949312.html
- Farzaneh-Far R, et al. Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels With Telomeric Aging in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease. JAMA. 2010;303(3):250-257. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.2008.