Sunday, January 24, 2010

Omega 3's for telomeres

This study that just recently came out in JAMA, shows a relationship between high dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids and reduced telomere shortening in coronary heart disease patients.

It has already been shown that upping the intake omega-3’s improves survival in patients with coronary heart disease, but it wasn’t known exactly how this worked. This study shows that it may work at the cellular level by helping keep telomeres long (possibly by decreasing oxidative stress and/or increasing the activity of the enzyme telomerase).

The researchers measured telomere lengths of over 600 patients with coronary artery disease at study enrollment and then again after 5 years. They looked at baseline omega-3 levels and changes in telomere length over the 5 year period.

Those patients with the lowest omega-3 level had the fastest rates of telomere shortening, whereas those with highest levels of omega-3 had slowest rates of telomere shortening (after adjusting for risk factors and potential confounders).

How can we get more omega-3 fatty acids in the diet? Fish, yes. And many other sources as well: flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, navy beans, kidney beans, tofu, squash, olive oil, hemp milk… lots of places.

As more studies on telomeres are coming out, I’m starting to wonder if one day we’ll be measuring telomere length as a marker of health, similar to how we measure LDL today.