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Omega-3 Fatty Acids Linked to Less Change in Telomeres

Last Updated: January 19, 2010.

Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a slower rate of telomere shortening in individuals with coronary artery disease, according to research published in the Jan. 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

TUESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a slower rate of telomere shortening in individuals with coronary artery disease, according to research published in the Jan. 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Ramin Farzaneh-Far, M.D., of the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues analyzed data from 608 subjects with a history of myocardial infarction or coronary revascularization, coronary stenosis, or exercise-induced ischemia. Subjects underwent blood testing of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). They also underwent testing for leukocyte telomere length at baseline and at five years. Short chromosomal telomeres have previously been linked to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

The researchers found that those in the lowest quartile of omega-3s had the fastest rate of telomere shortening, and those in the highest quartile had the slowest rate. Each increase in baseline levels by one standard deviation was associated with a 32-percent decrease in odds of telomere shortening.

"One possible explanation for the association of omega-3 fatty acids with decelerated telomere attrition may lie in the paradigm of oxidative stress, a powerful driver of telomere shortening and organismal aging," the authors write. "A second potential mechanism for the association of slowing of omega-3 fatty acid levels with decelerated telomere attrition is increased activity of the enzyme telomerase."

A co-author reported financial ties to companies with an interest in omega-3s, and founded a company offering omega-3 testing.

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