Move Over, Benjamin Button: Omega-Fatty Acids Slow the Aging Process

The fountain of youth may actually be more like an ocean, as new research shows supplementation with omega-fatty acids – common in certain types of fish (as well as nuts and seeds)—extended the life of immune system cells.

The research was published in the recent issue of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. Subjects were given omega-3 fatty acid supplements over a four-month period. One group received 2.5 grams per day; another group received 1.25 grams per day and the third received placebos.

The group receiving the omega-3’s showed a significant decrease in oxidative stress compared with the placebo group. Researchers also noted decreased inflammatory markers by as much as 12 percent while the placebo group increased by 36 percent.

This inflammation increase in the subjects not given the omega-fatty acids, is believed to be connected with chronic shortening of telomeres, which are DNA sequences found at the end of chromosomes in cells. As the cells replicate and age, the telomeres begin to shorten. This can lead to limited cell division and even increase the risk of the development of certain types of cancer.

The researchers noted longer telomeres in immune system cells with the subjects who had received the omega-fatty acid supplementation. According to the research team, the discovery of telomere lengthening suggests therefore an “exciting possibility” that omega-fatty acid supplementation may actually have an impact on slowing aging and the risk of certain inflammation-related diseases.

Considered “healthy fats” for their ability to decrease inflammation, boost brain function and support healthy weight, omega-fatty acids are found in many types of fish, as well as nuts such as walnuts. They are also abundant in flax, hemp and chia seeds.

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Image: Katie Tegtmeyer