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Condition - Fish oils may hold the key to young biological age

By Holly Taylor BSc (Hons) DipCNM MBANT

A new study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that omega 3 fatty acids may have a direct effect on our biological age. The ageing and lifespan of normal, healthy cells are linked to small sections of DNA called telomeres. With each replication the telomeres shorten and, when the telomeres are totally consumed, the cells are destroyed. The purpose of telomeres is to prevent cancerous changes, by ensuring that the chromosomes inside cells don’t stick together during cell division. Unfortunately, this also means that cells have a finite lifespan. Many experts believe that the longer your telomeres, the younger your biological age and the healthier you are.

What’s more, the research carried out in America indicates that omega 3 may help to slow down damage to the DNA, which can prematurely shorten telomeres. Scientists from the University of California, San Francisco, looked at the effect of omega 3 fatty acids on 608 people with heart disease. The researchers found that individuals with the lowest average levels of the omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA in their blood experienced the most rapid rate of telomere shortening, while people with the highest average blood levels experienced the slowest rate.

Commenting on the potential mechanism, the scientists noted that this may be linked to the ability of omega 3 fatty acids to reduce oxidative stress within the body, which is known to drive telomere shortening. It’s also possible that omega 3 could enhance the effects of an enzyme called telomerase, which works to maintain telomere length.

Recently, researchers from the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have also reported that telomere length was longer in regular multivitamin users and an association between green tea-drinking and telomere length was reported by scientists in Hong Kong, so this new study adds exciting data to a growing body of evidence linking certain nutrients to telomere length and biological age. 

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