Sunday, March 28, 2010
Omega-3 New Information
We've known for years that omega-3 fatty acids are good for the heart. These healthy fats down-regulate inflammation, and may help reduce the risk and symptoms of disorders influenced by inflammation, including heart attack, stroke and several forms of cancer. Now researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have found another action of omega-3s that may help explain why they offer benefits for the heart. The investigators found that the more omega-3 consumed by patients with coronary heart disease, the slower the structures called telomeres at the ends of chromosomes shrank. (Telomeres have been likened to the caps on the ends of shoelaces that prevent the laces from unraveling. In cells, telomeres prevent chromosomes from fusing with one another or rearranging - undesirable changes that could lead to serious diseases.) The more times a cell divides, the shorter telomeres become, a change that makes them a marker of biological age. The California investigators followed about 600 patients with coronary artery disease and measured their blood levels of omega-3s and telomere length at the beginning of the study and again five years later. They found that the higher the blood levels of omega-3s, the slower telomeres shortened, suggesting that the rate of biological aging - as mirrored by telomeres - decreased.
My take? This is a fascinating area of research and may give us new insight into how omega-3 fatty acids benefit health. It only reinforces the need to get plenty of omega-3s through your diet or supplements. My longstanding recommendation has been to consume two to three servings of fish per week or to take a fish oil supplement if you don't like fish. I eat fish often and also take 2-3 grams of supplemental fish oil a day.