In overweight yet healthy adults who took omega-3 supplements for four months, researchers found a changed fatty acid ratio in their bodies. This change helped preserve tiny bits of DNA in their white blood cells. Stay with me now, as this gets slightly complicated.
Those DNA fragments are called “telomeres.” They shorten over time due to aging. But in people who had far higher rates of omega-3s in their bodies, there was more lengthening of those telomeres in immune system cells. What’s more is that the famous fat reduced oxidative stress by about 15% compared to placebo. That means a reduced risk of disease.
This study has turned heads, because it suggests a supplement could help keep your body younger even as birthdays pass. This same study also found that omega-3 supplements reduced inflammation, a very important finding. Omega-3 fatty acid’s multiple effects suggest it could lower your risk of age-related disease, such as dementia, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.
To that study. People took either 2.5 grams or 1.25 grams of omega-3s—or placebo pills that looked the same and contained a mix of oils the typical American gets each day.
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It wasn’t just about increasing omega-3 intake, but also about the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Since the 1960s, the average adult has been getting far more of the former than the latter. The average ratio is about 15-to-1, but for maximum benefit, it should be around 3-to-1. Thus, stocking up on omega-3 is the way to go.
Those lengthened telomeres? Well, they were clearly associated with a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. And there’s more: they were also linked with decreased inflammation, measured by a certain marker in the blood called “interleukin-6” (IL-6). Earlier, these researchers had found that omega-3 supplements dropped IL-6 by up to 12%. By the study’s end, those on placebo had the opposite: an overall 36% increase in IL-6.
This suggests that inflammation is a major player in the aging process. You will hear a lot more about telomeres in the coming years. Their tendency to shorten is linked to many age-related issues, and early death. If we were to lengthen them instead—like omega-3 supplements seem to—what would the benefit be?
Well, maybe the way we age would be affected. And even death could be put off for a while!