A study published in “Brain, behaviour and immunity”, has shown that supplementing with marine omega-3 for just four months is associated with lengthening of telomeres in immune cells .
Telomeres are the fine protective tips at the end of our chromosomes. When cells divide, the chromosomes’ DNA has to replicate but each time this happens, the telomeres become shorter, thus reducing the cells’ lifespan. Telomere shortening is therefore directly linked to cellular aging and the development of the many diseases that accompany aging. When the telomeres cease to exist, the cells are destroyed in a process called apoptosis or “programmed cell death”.
A number of earlier studies have shown that telomeres are very sensitive to oxidative stress and some experts have highlighted telomere length as a potentially valuable marker of biological aging.
A team led by Professor Jan Kiecolt-Glaser of Ohio University and Elizabeth Blackburn, a pioneer in the field of telomere research, conducted a study involving 106 overweight adults. Each was assigned to one of three groups: the first received 2.5g/day of omega-3, the second 1.25g/day and the third was blindly given a placebo.
The study showed that after four months’, levels of F-isoprostanes, a marker of oxidative stress, were markedly lower in the two groups supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids.
No difference was observed in telomerase, an enzyme that can lengthen the shortest telomeres, or in telomere length in any of the three groups. However, an improved omega-6/omega-3 ratio was associated with longer telomeres, suggesting that a better ratio between these two groups of fatty acids can directly affect cellular aging.
Inflammation markers were also 10-20% lower for the two omega-3 supplemented groups, while markers increased by 36% in the control group. This observation strongly suggests inflammation is a parameter that directly influences telomere length.
Supplementation with marine omega-3 over a four-month period notably increased average telomere length, thus affecting one of the key processes of cellular aging. These results confirm those of an earlier study, published in 2010, which showed that high circulating levels of omega-3 were able to slow down cellular aging in coronary patients.