Posted on Jan 27, 2010, 6 a.m.
UCSF (US) researchers find that omega-3 fatty acids, compounds present in the oils of fatty fish, may slow telomere shortening, a key marker of biological age.
Telomeres are the endcaps on chromosomes, and the number of times that telomeres divide during cellular replication has been linked to cellular aging and death. Ramin Farzaneh-Far, from the University of California San Francisco (USA), and colleagues studied a group of 608 patients with stable coronary artery disease for a six-year period, measuring leukocyte telomere length at the study’s start and at the five-year mark. The team then modeled the association of omega-3 fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid [DHA] and eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA]) with subsequent change in telomere length. The researchers found that those subjects in the lowest quartile of DHA+EPA experienced the fastest rate of telomere shortening, whereas those in the highest quartile experienced the slowest rate of telomere shortening. Further, each unit increase in DHA/EPA levels was associated with a 32% reduction in the odds of telomere shortening Speculating that omega-3s may protect against oxidative stress, or increase the activity of the telomerase enzyme, which may then decrease telomere shortening by creating more accurate telomere copies, the researchers conclude that: “ Among this cohort of patients with coronary artery disease, there was an inverse relationship between baseline blood levels of marine omega-3 fatty acids and the rate of telomere shortening over 5 years.”
Ramin Farzaneh-Far, Jue Lin, Elissa S. Epel, William S. Harris, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Mary A. Whooley. “Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels With Telomeric Aging in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease.” JAMA. 2010;303(3):250-257.