There’s no such thing as a fountain of youth, but is there an oil of youth? Several studies have shown that consumption of omega-3 oils affects a key marker of biological aging called telomeres. Much like the plastic tips of shoelaces, telomeres are the tips of chromosomal DNA that keep it from unravelling. The shorter your telomeres, the higher your biological age. According to accumulating research, omega-3s can help preserve these protective structures, thus keeping DNA intact.*
One of the most revealing of several recent studies looking at the effects of omega-3s on telomere length was a large observational study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010. It analyzed data from 608 adults taking part in a study of heart health. The researchers found that participants with omega-3 levels in the highest quartile at the beginning of the study experienced the slowest rate of telomere shortening over five years, while those with the lowest levels had the fastest shortening.*[i] This was the first research to show that diet may be able to slow down telomere shortening.
One of the unique things about this study was that researchers measured the subjects’ telomere length twice, once at baseline and then again five years later. One researcher explained that this meant “We were able to measure the actual rate of change, which gives us a sense of the rate at which biological aging is taking place.” Subjects in the lowest quartile experienced a telomere shortening rate of 0.13 telomere-to-single-copy gene ratio (T/S units), while those in the highest quartile had a rate of only 0.05 T/S units — in other words, considerably less than half.
On average, Americans have well-below optimal levels of omega-3s. To take advantage of the anti-aging effects of omega-3s, eat a diet high in good sources of these healthy fats — like fatty fish, seaweed, walnuts or flax seed — or take an omega-3 supplement.
* This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease.
[i] Farzaneh-Far, R. et al. JAMA. 2010 Jan 20. ;303(3):250-7.