[Studies] Omega-Essential Fatty Acid Supplementation and Aging

October 12th, 2012

Many of you have read about the health benefits of eating fish due to the levels of omega-3 fatty acids they contain.  Benefits for heart, eye sight, and brain function are just a few of the areas reported in the scientific literature.

Now, a study from Ohio State University, published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, reports that a part of our chromosomes (a cellular component that contain our genes) called the telomere may be protected when omega-3 oils are consumed.

The telomere is located at the end of the chromosome and protects it from decaying or unraveling and malfunctioning.  The telomeres tend to decrease in length as we age thus rendering our chromosomes more susceptible to damage and not being able to reproduce our gene sequences efficiently or correctly.

Decreased telomere lengths are associated with the chronic diseases of aging and death rates.  Some researchers think that the decrease in telomere length is due to low levels of chronic systemic inflammation that circulates throughout our bodies and may be responsible for many chronic diseases as well as decreased telomere lengths.  This inflammation can be measured by various markers that indicate the level of inflammation in our bodies. The omega-3 supplementation reduced the levels of some of the better known markers.

It was fascinating to read that taking 1.25 to 2.50 grams a day of EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docashexanoic acid, the two important omega-3’s found in fish and Krill oil), reduced systemic levels of inflammation in humans but also increased the telomere lengths as well. (Suggesting that the loss of telomere length may be reversible, indicating a possible anti-aging benefit).

A word to the wise is to be very careful when purchasing omega-3 supplements. In many products the total omega-3 content may be listed as 500-1000mg per soft gel or more, which would make one tend to think that by taking 2-3 soft gels a day, you would be getting the 1.25-2.5 grams a day found to be helpful in the study.

Well, this is not the case, because the therapeutic omega-3’s EPA and DHA are often only a small percentage of the total amount of omega-3’s listed on the label.  For example the supplement panel on the label of an omega-3 supplement may state that each soft gel has a total of 1000mg of omega-3 in it.  But if you read further is may state that EPA and DHA only represent 25% of that total or only 250mg. of EPA and DHA. 

At 250 mg total EPA and DHA in each soft gel, to get 2.5 grams you would have to take 10 of the soft gels not the 2or 3 you might think.

A good omega-3 product should have at least 40% EPA, DHA of the total omega-3 listed in each soft gel.  The higher the percentage the better and the purer the product.

 

 

Curt Hendrix M.S. C.C.N. C.N.S.