New study shows omega-3s may lengthen telomeres

Posted by: on Oct 11, 2012 | No Comments

Data published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity indicated supplements of omega-3 fatty acids may improve the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids and that four months of supplementation with omega-3s were associated with longer telomeres in immune system cells.

“The telomere finding is provocative in that it suggests the possibility that a nutritional supplement might actually make a difference in aging,” said Professor Jan Kiecolt-Glaser from Ohio State University and lead author of the study. A previous observational study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010 showed high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids may slow cellular ageing in people with coronary heart disease.

Professor Kiecolt-Glaser and co-workers recruited 106 healthy sedentary overweight middle-aged and older adults to participate in their double-blind four-month trial. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: The first group received 2.5 grams per day of omega-3 (OmegaBrite), the second group received l.25 grams per day of omega-3, and the third group received placebo capsules. After four months of supplementation, results showed that omega-3 supplementation significantly decreased measures of oxidative stress, with F2-isoprostanes levels found to be 15% lower in the two supplemented groups compared to placebo. There were no significant differences in telomerase and telomere length between the groups. However, a decreased ratio of omega-6:omega-3 was associated with longer telomeres, which suggested that lower omega-6:omega-3 ratios “can impact cell aging”, said the researchers. Inflammatory markers also decreased by between 10 and 12% as a result of omega-3 supplementation, while levels increased by 36% in the placebo group. “This finding strongly suggests that inflammation is what’s driving the changes in the telomeres,” said Kiecolt-Glaser.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-USA, Harry Rice, PhD, VP of regulatory and scientific affairs for GOED, said: “I think the exciting finding from this study is that average telomere length increased with omega-3 supplementation. While not statistically significant, the supplementation duration was very short. Consider that in 2010, JAMA published a paper on the results of research demonstrating an inverse relationship between baseline blood levels of marine omega-3 fatty acids and the rate of telomere shortening over 5 years.”