According to the study
published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity
the subjects of the study were overweight but healthy middle aged and older adults. They took omega-3 supplements for four months. These subjects “altered a ratio of their fatty acid consumption in a way that helped preserve tiny segments of DNA in their white blood cells”, the study points out.
These segments are called telomeres which are known to shorten with aging. The study indicated that lengthening of telomeres was more prevalent in people who had more omega-3s in their diet, in comparison to other fatty acids in their diet. In comparison to the placebo group, the study further found that omega-3s could reduce oxidative stress by 15 percent. Oxidative stress is caused by excessive free radicals in the blood.
"The telomere finding is provocative in that it suggests the possibility that a nutritional supplement might actually make a difference in aging," Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, lead author of the study from Ohio State said.
The same study also found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements lowered inflammation in the same group. Inflammation is the root cause of many health conditions. The research on omega-3s is, therefore, likely to have a lot of potentially good spinoffs.
According to the researchers, omega-3 supplements are the single nutritional intervention with the potential to lower the risk associated with a host of aging-related diseases including Alzheimer’s, coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and arthritis among others.
According to Martha Belury, Professor of human nutrition at Ohio State and co-author of the study, omega-3 supplement alone doesn’t tell the whole story of the impact of dietary change on health, the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids present in blood is also critical. Omega-6 fatty acids present in vegetable oils are also known to help protect the cardiovascular system.
The average American diet has relatively greater amount of omega-6 fatty acids in comparison to omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and tuna. It averages about 15-to-1, while this ratio should be lowered to 4-to-1 or even 2-to-1, according to the researchers. The lower ratio is associated with lengthened telomeres.
This research is the further endorsement of omega-3 fatty acid
, which has been making headlines in the nutrition world. Omega-3s must be considered essential to health and hence must be included in diet because the human body does not manufacture them on its own.
The U.S does not yet have guidelines
for DHA or EPA – two popular omega-3 fatty acids. DHA and EPA are often taken together. The European Food Safety Agency recommends 250 mg of combined DHA and EPA everyday, while the National Heart foundation of Australia recommends 500 mg everyday for healthy adults without medical conditions. According to American Heart Association, people with heart disease should include one gram of EPA and DHA in their diet everyday.