Scientists Are Learning How to Slow Aging

Scientists are getting closer to unraveling the mystery of aging and now a new study points to evidence that omega-3 fatty acids appear to slow the biological aging process.  University of California researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids may slow aging by protecting the body’s chromosomes from the usual damage that occurs with aging. In their recent study of patients with heart disease, those who had the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had the most slowing of their biological aging process, while those who had the lowest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had evidence of the fastest rate of aging.

To determine the speed of biological aging, the researchers measured the length of telomeres on the patients’ chromosomes. Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of chromosomes and the shortening of telomeres has been linked to not only the aging process,  but cancer and a higher risk of dying. Telomeres allow cells to divide while keeping the genetic material intact. Every time a cell divides, telomeres get progressively shorter until the cell ultimately dies.  This normal aging process can be sped up by environmental factors such as obesity, poor diet, inactivity and smoking.  Scientists theorize that counteracting telomere shortening could allow people to be healthier and live longer.

In the University of California study there was no distinction between meals of fatty fish and fish-oil supplements—leaving open the question of whether it’s better for people to eat more fish, to eat plants such as flaxseed or just to take omega-3 supplements.

Experts point out that the results of this study are preliminary and need to be replicated before physicians should use them in practice, but a number of other studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to heart health, and the American Heart Assn. recommends that patients with known coronary artery disease get at least one gram a day of omega-3 fish oil through intake of oily fish, such as salmon, herring and sardines, or the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements for the prevention and treatment of heart disease.

Source: MedPage Today January 19, 2010

Video source: JAMA

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