Fish Oil May Protect Against Cellular Aging

News headlines over the past few years have touted omega-3 fatty acids, as wonder substances that keep the heart healthy and help prevent coronary disease as well as aid in recovery after a heart attack. But new research sheds light on the exact mechanism by which these omega-3 fatty acids actually work on the heart.

It all has to do with telomeres, which are like small caps on the ends of cell chromosomes that keep the chromosomes intact. As we get older, our telomeres naturally fray and shorten due to repeated cell division. This shortening can be linked with many diseases we normally associate with aging. The shorter our telomeres, the worse shape our cells are in. But researchers at the University of California-San Francisco recently conducted a study of 608 patients with coronary artery disease and found that those with the most omega-3 fatty acids in their bloodstreams had the slowest rate of telomere shortening over time, while those with the least omega-3 fatty acids in their bloodstreams had telomeres that shortened much faster. The scientists theorize that consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids actually may slow down your cells' aging and keep you healthy and disease-free longer.

The American Heart Association recommends that people eat at least two servings of fatty fish a week in order to get a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids. The best fish? Salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna fit the bill. But if two servings are good, is eating fatty fish every day even better? Possibly, but many fish have high mercury levels, so experts advise exercising caution when it comes to feasting on them. What if you have the opposite problem and just cannot stand eating fish? Not to worry—you can get your omega-3s by swallowing fish-oil capsules. Just check with your doctor to determine an appropriate amount, as too much fish oil may cause excessive bleeding in certain people.


University of California-San Francisco,;

American Heart Association,