A new observational study in patients with coronary artery disease has revealed an inverse relationship between baseline blood levels of fish oil and the telomere shortening rate over 5 years , suggesting another possible explanation for the protective effects of omega 3 fatty acids.
Telomeres are the terminal ends of chromosomal DNA that shorten with age. Telomere shortening is an indicator of biological aging, and telomere length has been shown to independently predict morbidity and mortality in patients with cardiovascular disease in this study.
The researchers recruited 608 patients with coronary artery disease who participated in the Heart and Soul study between 2000 and 2002 and measured the length of the blood telomere at the beginning of that study and then after five years of follow-up. They also evaluated blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
Patients were divided into quartiles according to their omega 3 levels (2.3%, 3.3%, 4.3% and 7.3% respectively). Although there are no data that establish their optimum levels, it is believed that these could be around 7 or 8%, that is, only the upper quartile would present these adequate levels.
Precisely, it was the participants included in the lower quartile of EPA + DHA who presented the fastest telomere shortening (0.13 T / S units), while the of the superior quartile were those that presented a smaller decrease of the telomere at 5 years (0.05 units T / S).
This suggests the existence of a new mechanism by which omega 3 fatty acids could be beneficial for patients with cardiovascular diseases and on which they had not previously deepened: their effect on Telomeres In addition, it is the first study that shows that a dietary factor decreases the speed of telomere shortening, a factor of capital importance in the cell aging process.
Omega 3 can only be obtained from the diet and currently, most Western diets provide insufficient levels. These results reinforce the importance of the recommendations of some health associations about the consumption of these essential fatty acids, either through the use of food supplements or an increase in the consumption of blue fish. According to their recommendations, those affected by coronary artery disease should take at least 1 gram daily of omega 3 fatty acids to prevent secondary problems.
As a curiosity, the researchers also pointed to another possible application of omega 3 in the path of patient evaluation. This would be the possibility of using omega 3 levels as markers for coronary artery disease, with low levels of the same risk markers as adverse events.
Reference: Issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. January 20, 2010.