Omega-3 fatty acids slow cellular aging

In coronary heart disease (CHD) patients, higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in the blood are associated with survival.1,2 Since patients with higher circulating omega-3s seemed to live longer, scientists wondered whether these patients were actually aging more slowly. 

They were able to indirectly measure rate of aging by measuring the telomere shortening rate in the patients’ white blood cells. Telomeres are regions of DNA at the ends of linear chromosomes – since telomeres are shortened during each cell division as DNA is replicated, telomere shortening is an indicator of aging at the DNA level. Faster telomere shortening means faster aging.

Blood levels of EPA and DHA and white blood cell telomere length were measured in CHD patients at baseline and again after 5 years.  The patients who had the lowest omega-3 levels had the fastest rates of telomere shortening, and those with the highest omega-3 levels had the slowest rates of telomere shortening. 

Omega-3s may in fact slow aging at the DNA level.

Omega-3 fatty acids, have several health benefits , and more benefits continue to be uncovered. In addition to slowing the aging process, in the past year alone the omega-3 fatty acid DHA has been suggested to promote cognitive development, prevent atherosclerotic plaque development, curb inflammation, and protect against cancer. 

Read more about the newly found health benefits of DHA, and why it may be both safer and more environmentally sound to use an algae-based DHA supplement, like my DHA Purity, instead of fish oil. I also still strongly recommend that certain seeds and nuts rich in the omega-3 ALA, such as flax, chia, hemp, or walnuts are important to be included in the diet as well for other documented health benefits. 



1. Chattipakorn N et al. Cardiac mortality is associated with low levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the heart of cadavers with a history of coronary heart disease. Nutr Res. 2009 Oct;29(10):696-704.

2. Farzaneh-Far R et al. Association of marine omega-3 fatty acid levels with telomeric aging in patients with coronary heart disease. JAMA. 2010 Jan 20;303(3):250-7. 

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Comments (7) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Matt Stone - February 18, 2010 11:30 PM

After thoroughly looking into the topic of omega 3, the only real reason there is a positive association with it is because it displaces omega 6. Without excessive omega 6 in the diet, there is no need for high levels of omega 3, and it may be even better to be low in both omega 3 and omega 6.

I've actually come to feel that much of Dr. Fuhrman's positive results with Eat to Live stem from the drastic fat restriction - to the point of consuming extremely low levels of omega 6 compared to the average person in the land of peanut butter and vegetable oil.

Michael - February 19, 2010 12:29 PM

Hi Matt,

There are so many changes in the diet that I don't know how you can factor them out. There is:
Reduction in: sugar & refined carbohydrates, salt, Omega 6, saturated and trans-fats, calories, animal products
Increased consumption of: vitamins & minerals & phytochemicals & anti oxidants, fiber

All of these have an affect on their own, but I imagine it's difficult to really identify all of the advantages unless you followed hundreds of people eating this way for decades.

Adrienne - February 19, 2010 1:06 PM

Yes it could be that those people consuming more omega 3's were simply eating healthier diets in general. Quote from the full text of the second study referenced:

However, several limitations should be considered in the interpretation of our results. First, the association reported in this study is observational, and therefore no definitive conclusions can be made regarding causality. Although we adjusted for multiple carefully measured potential confounding variables, the possibility of residual confounding by measured or unmeasured covariates cannot be excluded. For example, the absence of detailed dietary information may have contributed to residual confounding by other nutritional factors associated with telomere length, such as red meat intake.55 To definitively address the question of whether omega-3 fatty acids inhibit cellular aging, a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial would be necessary. Second, our measurements were restricted to telomere length in leukocytes and do not necessarily reflect telomere trajectory in other cell compartments such as myocardium, endothelium, or the atherosclerotic plaque. Third, due to long-term storage of blood samples, we could not measure biomarkers of oxidative stress or telomerase activity, which might elucidate the mechanisms of deceleration of telomeric aging by omega-3 fatty acids. Fourth, our study sample comprised mainly male outpatients with coronary artery disease, a population that might be particularly responsive to the effects of omega-3 fatty acids. The findings may not be generalizable to other patient populations, and further studies are required to validate our findings in other demographic groups.

Steve - February 19, 2010 2:09 PM

I am sympathetic to Matt's point of view.

I use a very simple and kinda silly analogy to think about the notion of w6 fats "getting in the way" of w3 fats.

If a city core is clogged with cars (w6) parked all over the place, it is hard to find a spot for the trucks (w3) to park.

If there less total traffic, it is easier to find a spot for both the cars and trucks to park.

However, analogies prove nothing of course ;-)


Stacy - February 19, 2010 3:03 PM

Matt - I like what you had to say. I find that Americans are all about, "What can I eat to make myself healthier?" when what many need to ask themselves is, "What should I stop eating to make myself healthier?"

Disease Diet Info - February 19, 2010 11:13 PM

Nutritional and dietary elements that have proven relationships to certain diseases or conditions. The right diet and dietary supplements can help you reduce your risk factors and prevention for chronic diseases.

Peter - November 7, 2011 6:38 AM

Before I get over-excited about finding out about a vegan source of DHA, like Dr. Fuhrman's DHA Purity, I would like to ask Dr. Fuhrman something.

According to Dr. Mercola's article titled "Beware of Misleading Omega-3 Claims", Dr. Mercola states that when compared to krill or fish oil, DHA or EPA that is from algae "is not as good a source because it is unbalanced".

Is your DHA Purity from algae "balanced". I am really eager to know this.

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