Ageing and Omega 3

No matter what the health topic under discussion, omega-3 containing foods appear critical in our diet, and new research have discovered links between the omega-3 intake with the rate of aging itself. 

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) found that the ability of your cells to continue reproducing healthily as you get older is linked to the amount of omega-3s in your diet!

They made this link by delving down into the genetics of 608 study participants by measuring the length of telomeres in their white blood cells and compared the results after five years.

The blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were also measured where researchers discovered there was a link between omega-3 levels in the blood and the length of the telomeres on the chromosomes inside the white blood cells.

What are telomeres?
Telomeres are short lengths of DNA found at the ends of our chromosomes. (Chromosomes are the way that our genetic material is organised and packaged). They function like short plastic sleeves on the ends of shoelaces: at the time when our cells reproduce telomeres prevent our chromosomes from unravelling.

Over time, however, as cell reproduction continues over and over, the length of the telomeres can get whittled away to the point where there is not really enough telomere left at the ends of the chromosomes to prevent the chromosomes from unravelling. This unravelling can contribute to the risk of disease and to rate at which our bodies age.

In men, for example, telomeres in white blood cells have been found to decrease in length by 9% every 10 years, and in men with particularly short telomeres, the risk of coronary heart disease is significantly increased.

Ageing -and -omega -3-flaxseed -wyza -com -au

Flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, and halibut are among the foods containing particularly large amounts of omega-3s

So what does this mean?
Higher blood levels of omega-3s corresponded to longer telomeres, and lower blood levels of omega-3s meant a risk of telomeres that were too short.

Fairly small increases in the blood levels of omega-3s were associated with significantly decreased risk of shortened telomeres (along the lines of 30-35%).

We’re not talking about the risk of a specific disease here, but about aging itself, and the ability of our cells to thrive as we get older. Even if we are not concerned about the risk of any particular disease, we apparently cannot expect to age healthfully unless we pay attention to our omega-3 intake.

But what are Omega-3 oils?
Omega-3 oils are a type of polyunsaturated fat, which help reduce your risk of heart disease. It can come from marine, animal and plant sources.

Previous studies have shown that optimal intake of omega-3 fatty acids not only lower our risk of cardiovascular diseases, but also type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, several forms of arthritis, certain cancers as well as health problems related to our skin, nervous system and immune and inflammatory systems.

So how much omega-3 should I consume?
Unfortunately, the California researchers did not tackle the question of how many omega-3s we need in our diet to keep our blood levels healthy.

Previous research has shown that two weekly 8-ounce servings of a food rich in omega-3s like salmon can more than double the amount of EPA in our bloodstream and increase our blood DHA by about 45% in a period of several months.

Even if you are not worried about your risk of a specific disease like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, keeping your omega-3 intake strong is important for staying healthy as you age.

This article was first published on and has been edited. 

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