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As the human body ages several changes occur, including the gradual erosion of the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, known as telomeres. A 2012 study suggests that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids can counteract telomere shortening and slow aging.

Telomeres function as a protective buffer against DNA loss during replication and DNA damage caused by inflammation, reactive oxygen species, and other chemical compounds. Telomeres get shorter with age and telomere length is a biological marker for age.

Previous research has demonstrated that many factors can affect the rate of telomere shortening. The dietary balance of the essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) omega-3 and omega-6 — which influence inflammation — might be a factor. The current study investigated whether blood levels of these polyunsaturated fatty acids affect telomere stability.

The double-blind randomized controlled trial involved 106 adults between the ages of 40 and 85 years who were sedentary and overweight. The authors of the study provided participants with a supplement containing 1.25 grams or 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo. To evaluate the influence of the omega-3 fatty acids versus placebo, the authors measured telomere length, telomerase activity, and markers of oxidative stress (known as F2-isoprostanes). They found that supplementation at both doses lowered the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio in the blood, which was associated with longer telomere length. They also observed that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation decreased markers of oxidative stress by 15 percent.

These findings suggest that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids in quantities high enough to lower the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in the blood can slow aging.

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