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. 

 

References:

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. 

Risky Fish Fat Builds Brain Power - Try Dr. Fuhrman's DHA Purity Instead

Dr. Fuhrman says our modern diet is very low in omega-3 fatty acids, which raises risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia. And now, a new study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claims omega-3’s from fish may be the key to staving off dementia and mental decline.

If fish does protect the aging brain, researchers believe that the benefits probably come from the omega-3 fatty acids found most abundantly in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna.

Lab studies show that omega-3 fats have a number of properties that could help stave off dementia -- including actions that protect nerve cells, limit inflammation and help prevent the build-up of the amyloid proteins seen in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

These latest findings are based on surveys of 14,960 adults age 65 or older living in China, India, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru or Venezuela.

It’s true. Fish is high in brain-building fat, but Dr. Fuhrman points out most varieties of fish—especially tilefish and mackerel—are heavily polluted with mercury. Dr. Fuhrman’s DHA Purity is a contamination-free omega–3 fatty acid supplement, but if you must have fish, here’s Dr. Fuhrman’s opinion on it.

We are finding out each year that fish is even more polluted than we thought. Even farm raised fish not only contains mercury, but other chemicals, antibiotics and algaecides that are potentially risky for us and the environment. Of course, we have to avoid the high mercury fish such as swordfish, mackerel, pike, shark and even tuna, but the farm-raised fish is not harmless or a health food either.

Though fish is touted as a health food, because of its lower levels of saturated fats and higher omega-3, the reality is that most of the fish available in the market today is farm-raised and does not have significant amounts of omega-3, and neither should it be considered health food. Consuming too much fish has clear risks.  Instead, restrict your fish consumption and assure omega-3 adequacy with either an algae-derived DHA supplement, plus walnuts and ground flax seeds, or take a purified fish oil (certified to be contamination free). I of course would prefer people take the plant-derived DHA (cultivated for this purpose), and not harm our oceans, the wildlife, and pollute the natural habitats trying to feed the world with fish-derived omega-3.

And visit DrFuhrman.com for more on Dr. Fuhrman’s DHA Purity supplement.

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Omega-3s: Healthy Fats You May Not Be Getting Enough Of...

Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that reduce inflammation, inhibit cancer development and protect our blood vessels. There are long-chain and short chain fatty acids. Short-chain omega-3 fats are found in some green vegetables, walnuts, and flax, chia, and hemp seeds. The basic building block of short-chain omega-3 fat is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Our bodies are only capable of converting a small amount of these short chain fats to long-chain omega-3 fats, called docoshexanoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Studies show that people have varying ability to convert ALA into DHA and EPA. Apparently, some people eating sufficient ALA from greens, seeds and walnuts can achieve adequate levels while others cannot. Men generally convert less than women. Conversion of ALA by the body to these longer-chain fatty acids is inefficient: < 5-10% for EPA and only 2-5% for DHA.1

DHA is one of the crucial building blocks of human brain tissue. It has been shown to protect against dementia, depression, inflammatory diseases, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), allergies, and to offer significant benefits for overall cardiovascular health.

Early in life, DHA is supplied via the placenta and from breast milk. While adequate DHA is particularly important for pregnant and nursing women and young children, it is beneficial for all ages!

  • Improves your child's intelligence
  • Aids depression and Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Improves memory
  • Important for brain and eye development
  • Promotes smoother skin; prevents wrinkles
  • Helps prevent heart disease and arthritis
  • Lowers risk of Alzheimer's and senior dementia
  • Lowers "bad" cholesterol

These long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are also produced by marine algae which serve as the source of DHA and EPA in fish. Although, fish is a good source of EPA and DHA, unfortunately, it's one of the most polluted foods which we eat. Therefore, it can not be considered a safe source of these healthy fats.

Fish have been shown to contain fat soluble petrochemicals, such as PCB's and dioxins as a result of the dumping of toxic waste and raw sewage into our oceans. Fish also contains mercury. According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 12 women of childbearing age in the United States have unsafe mercury levels (and the CDC's threshold for safety is high). Multiple studies have illustrated most of the body's mercury load comes from the consumption of fish.

For these reasons, I recommend consuming little or no fish. If you choose to consume fish, try to stay away from those high in fat and known to be high in mercury such as shark, swordfish, mackerel, pike, tuna, snapper, lobster, grouper, sea bass and bluefish. Instead, use the lower fat (less polluted) fish such as flounder, sole, haddock, scallops, squid, trout, hake, ocean perch, shrimp and tilapia.

Some nutritional advisors encourage consuming high amounts of flax seed oil to promote the conversion of enough DHA. I do not agree. First of all, flax seed oil is an empty calorie food with little or no vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and flavonoids that were present in the original seeds. Furthermore, we have a significant collection of data that indicates that the consumption of high doses of ALA from flax oil may increase, not decrease the risk of prostate cancer.1 In contrast, flax seed consumption has been shown in multiple studies to lower the risk of both breast cancer and prostate cancer.3

I prefer people not consume much fish to assure sufficient consumption or conversion of omega-3s. Since the ability to self-convert short chain ALA into long-chain DHA is so variable from person to person, I recommend a mixture of natural omega-3 containing plants plus some extra plant-derived DHA. I advise people obtain their omega-3 fats by consuming the cleaner, plant sources such as walnuts, flax, chia, and hemp seeds and by also taking a daily DHA supplement like my DHA Purity. My DHA Purity is a laboratory cultivated DHA product made from microalgae. It is a pure form of DHA without environmental contamination or unnecessary disruption of our ocean life. 

1. Davis, B. C. and P. M. Kris-Etherton. Achieving optimal essential fatty acid status in vegetarians: current knowledge and practical implications. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78(3 Suppl):640S-646S. Brenna, J. T. Efficiency of conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to long chain n-3 fatty acids in man. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2002;5(2):127-32.

2. Brouwer IA, Katan MB, Zock PL. Dietary alpha-linolenic acid is associated with reduced risk of fatal coronary heart disease, but increased prostate cancer risk: a meta-analysis. J Nutr 2004 Apr;134(4):919-22.

3. Demark-Wahnefried W, Price DT, Polascik TJ, et al. Pilot study of dietary fat restriction and flaxseed supplementation in men with prostate cancer before surgery: exploring the effects on hormonal levels, prostate-specific antigen, and histopathologic features. Urology 2001 Jul;58(1):47-52.

Image credit: niznoz

Higher Omega-3 Levels Linked to Lower Bodyweight

Omega-3 fatty acids, the good fats recently found to improve heart health and help prevent prostate cancer, are now being associated with lower bodyweight.

Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, scientists observed that overweight or obese people had blood levels of omega-3s roughly 1% lower than healthy people.

For the study, 124 people of varying bodyweights—21 were classified as healthy weight, 40 overweight and 63 obese—had blood samples taken, with results showing an inverse relationship between omega-3 levels and participants’ waist size and hip circumference.

Obese people had omega-3 levels of 4.53%, but healthy people had levels of 5.25%.

Sure, it’s only a small difference, but healthy bodyweight is just one perk of omega-3s. Other reports have shown omega-3 fatty acids offer protection from stroke, depression linked to pregnancy and help lower young children’s risk of type-1diabetes.

Good sources of omega-3 include flaxseed, walnuts and micro algae-derived supplements.

Via Food Navigator.

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Vegetarians Have Less Cancer Risk than Meat-Eaters -- UPDATE --

New findings in the British Journal of Cancer reveal of the 60,000 Britons studied those who were vegetarian—half of them—had a lower risk of developing cancer, compared to meat-eaters. The research followed participants for 12.2 years, with 3,350 incidences of cancer. The number of meat-ears who developed cancer was 2,204 and 829 among vegetarians—only 317 fish-eaters got cancer. Overall, vegetarians were 12% less likely to get cancer; Medical News Today reports.

But vegetarian and vegan diets most often aren’t ideal. Dr. Fuhrman points out many vegans and vegetarians are often deficient in things like omega-3’s, found in fish. Dr. Fuhrman’s DHA Purity can help. It’s derived from microalgae and supplies plenty of brain-building omega–3 fatty acids.

In related news, animal fat was shown to raise the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, while leafy green vegetables—such as kale and cabbage—help fight and protect against cancer.

UPDATE: Dr. Fuhrman had some additional thoughts: 

A vegan diet can be ideal if well designed as can be a diet with a small amount of animal products, such as one or two servings a week. A nutritarian diet is designed to reverse disease and promote longer life, and features:

  • Adequate depth and variety of nutrient-rich natural foods
  • Limited animal products, but adequate ALA/EPA/DHA
  • Adequate whole food plant fats and proteins from seeds, nuts and beans
  • High intake of green and cruciferous vegetables
  • Careful attention to supplements or lab tests to assure no deficiencies are present with genetic variation of absorption and variable needs

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Fatty Acids Improve Heart Health in Diabetics

A new study in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, shows omega-3 fatty acids lower blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid known to raise the risk of heart disease. For the study, 81 diabetics were randomly assigned to groups receiving daily omega-3 supplements or a placebo. After two months, data revealed a 22% reduction of homocysteine in the omega groups, compared to only 1% for the placebo group; Nutra Ingredients explains.

Omega-3s are powerful stuff, found in foods like flaxseeds, omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to slower progression of age-related vision loss, reduced inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease, and less likelihood of repeat stroke. Not too shabby!

In March, a study showed fatty acids help lower the risk of prostate cancer. Good thing Dr. Fuhrman sells a DHA supplement that provides essential omega-3 fatty acids.

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Q & A: How Diet May Effect Depression...

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 5.4% of adults in the United States suffer from depression. In the past, vitamin D deficiency had been linked to depression, but are there any nutritional reasons why? Here’s a quick discussion from Dr. Fuhrman’s member center:

Question: Are their any diet reasons that contribute to depression? The reason I ask is that some days I feel really good and the next day I feel tired and depressed. I am not eating totally healthy. Also, what kind of blood tests should I have to tell if I am low in nutrients that may be causing my depression?

Dr. Fuhrman: Yes, oxidative stress in general, which means low intake of the broad spectrum of plant-derived phytochemicals, can contribute to depression. Vitamin D deficiency and omega-3 deficiencies can also contribute. You should order the following tests: amino acid quantitative, essential fatty acid analysis, B12/ MMA methylmalonic acid, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), and Vitamin D 25-hydroxy.

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Omega-3's May Save Your Eyesight

Go eat some walnuts! Because a new study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology claims diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may slow the development of age-related macular degeneration. An analysis of nearly 3,000 people, randomly assigned to take three different vitamin supplements or a placebo, revealed no matter the supplement, participants with higher intake of omega-3’s were at lower risk for the progression of advanced macular degeneration; Reuters reports.

Flaxseeds are another powerful source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are amazing! They’ve been linked to improved insulin tolerance, protection against prostate cancer and prevention of repeat strokes. Oh, and citrus fruits also help stave off age-related macular degeneration.

And last year, a report showed antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, found in leafy green vegetables—such as collard greens, spinach and kale—promote eye health too.

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What Vegans May Be Missing...

Certainly a plant-based diet which minimizes animal products is the best approach for losing weight, preventing and reversing disease, and optimizing health. However, those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, and those not consuming fatty fish like salmon each week, should be aware of recent studies that suggest they may be deficient in a critical and essential nutrient, especially EPA & DHA, the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an omega-3 fat and is the precursor of the longer chain omega 3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and to a lesser extent DHA can be made in the body from ALA. Primary sources of these fatty acids are certain fish and seafood.

As a result, vegetarian, and especially vegan, diets provide little EPA and DHA directly. A recent study reviewed the varying dietary fat intake across vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, and semi omnivores and its impact on essential omega-3 fatty acid availability in tissues. It concluded that vegetarians were left with reduced levels of omega-3 and recommended that they consume additional direct sources of EPA and DHA, regardless of age or gender, for physical, mental and neurological health benefits.1

In addition, ALA, EPA, and DHA are especially important for the prevention of certain cancers, particularly those of the breast and colon, and possibly of the uterus and the skin, and are likely to reduce the risk of postpartum depression, manic-depressive psychosis, dementias, Parkinson's, hypertension, toxemia, diabetes, and to a certain extent, age-related macular degeneration.2

Although vegetarian diets are generally lower in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than are non-vegetarian diets and may appear to offer cardiovascular health benefits due to higher intakes of antioxidants and fiber, the lack of direct EPA or DHA dietary sources may cause an adverse effect.3,4

With all of this documented research, it is not surprising that when I draw blood for fatty acid analysis on many of my patients, I find that a large percentage of individuals who do not eat fish or seafood regularly do not have optimal levels of DHA, even those eating walnuts and flaxseeds on a regular basis. I often see patients eating otherwise excellent diets with itchy dry skin, seborrheac dermatitis and other signs of DHA deficiency.

Although, there are some vegans and vegetarians regularly consuming walnuts and flaxseeds (which supply adequate ALA) may produce enough DHA on their own and may not require supplementation. However, because this issue is so imperative to their health it should be confirmed with a blood test before assuming that the conversion level is adequate. In order to assure optimal production of DHA fat, without recommending that the consumption of fish or refined fish oils, I recommend taking a vegetable sourced DHA supplement. DHA alone can deliver the same benefits of fish oil, since the intake of DHA can cause a natural retro-conversion to EPA internally.

Laboratory cultivated DHA is made from microalgae and is a pure form of DHA without environmental contamination. It is grown in the laboratory, not collected in the wild. It has no mercury or other toxins, which is a concern even for non-vegans who are cautious about eating fish or seafood.

DHA has been shown to protect against dementia, depression, inflammatory diseases, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), allergies, and to offer significant benefits for overall cardiovascular health.

There are other problems with consuming fish oils. The main problem is that the fat turns rancid as it sits on store shelves. As a result, many people complain of burping, indigestion, a foul taste, and long lasting fish-breath. I have also observed that rancidity of this fish fat can place a stress on the liver. Patients of mine have had blood tests showing abnormal liver function when consuming fish oil in significant amounts and then have had these tests return to normal when the fish oils were stopped.

Fortunately, vegetable derived DHA, from microalgae, is an alternative. However, even algae derived DHA can become rancid if not cared for properly. We go through great lengths to deliver the purest and freshest DHA product available on the market today. My DHA Purity is manufactured under strict conditions to ensure purity. Every step of the way, from production to packaging, transportation and storage, this product is kept refrigerated and handled to ensure optimal freshness.

In conjunction with a high nutrient, plant-based diet, I advise all people take a daily DHA supplement from a clean source. Early in life, DHA is supplied via the placenta and from breast milk. While adequate DHA is particularly important for pregnant and nursing women and young children, it is beneficial for all ages!

1. Kornsteiner M, Singer I, Elmadfa I. Very low n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid status in Austrian vegetarians and vegans. Ann Nutr Metab. 2008; 52(1):37-47.

2. Bourre JM Dietary omega-3 fatty acids for women. Biomed Pharmacother. 2007; 61(2-3):105 12.

3. Davis BC; Kris-Etherton PM Achieving optimal essential fatty acid status in vegetarians: current knowledge and practical implications. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78(3 Suppl):640S-646S

4. Lee HY; Woo J; Chen ZY; Leung SF; Peng XH Serum fatty acid, lipid profile and dietary intake of Hong Kong Chinese omnivores and vegetarians. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2000; 54(10):768-73.

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Citrus Fruits Help Stave Off Vision Loss

Its not just citrus fruits, new findings in the journal Ophthalmology suggest older adults eating a lot of leafy greens, citrus fruits and fish are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a major contributor to vision lose. Studying the diets of 4,000 adults, experts claim foods rich in omega-3s, vitamin C and E, zinc and antioxidants lower the risk of AMD. These low-sugar foods do not cause surges in blood pressure, which may harm retinas; Reuters reports.

Actually, last year researchers determined plant nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, found in foods like spinach, kale and collard greens, promote eye health and prevent cataracts, while eating red meat 10 times week increases the likelihood of age-related macular degeneration by 47%.

In related news, a recent study showed vegetable-based diabetes offer superior diabetes control and omega-3 fatty acids, like those contained in walnuts, reduce inflammation linked to heart disease.

Image credit: Yannick .