Friday, October 5, 2012. In an article published online on September 23, 2012 in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Jan Kiecolt-Glaser of Ohio State University and her associates report a protective effect for omega-3 fatty acids in the preservation of telomere length among middle-aged and older men and women. Reduced telomere length has been correlated with age-related disease and premature mortality.
Telomeres--bits of DNA that cap and protect the ends of chromosomes--have been compared to the coating at the ends of shoelaces that prevent them from fraying. "If that plastic comes off, the shoelace unravels and it doesn't work anymore," explained coauthor Ron Glaser, who is a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State. "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."
The study expanded upon the findings of a trial described in the June 26, 2012 issue of Life Extension Update, in which supplementation with the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were associated with a decrease in inflammation among sedentary overweight adults. The current investigation revealed an increase in telomere length in association with reductions in the participants' plasma omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio, which declined in those who were supplemented with 1.25 grams or 2.5 grams per day EPA and DHA. Those who received the omega-3 fatty acids also had reduced levels of oxidative stress as indicated by F2-isoprostane levels that were 15 percent lower than those measured in participants who received a placebo.
"People who are less healthy than this group, and especially those who experience chronic stress, may gain even more benefits from omega-3 supplementation," noted Dr Kiecolt-Glaser, who is a professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State.
The current study's results could be explained by the decrease in inflammation associated with omega-3 supplementation observed in the previous analysis. "This finding strongly suggests that inflammation is what's driving the changes in the telomeres," Dr Kiecolt-Glaser remarked. "Inflammation in particular is at the heart of so many health problems. Anything that reduces inflammation has a lot of potentially good spinoffs among older adults."
"The telomere finding is provocative in that it suggests the possibility that a nutritional supplement might actually make a difference in aging," she stated.
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