It’s pretty amazing when you think about all the positive benefits of consuming enough omega-3s in your diet. Most of us know that omega-3s—especially DHA and EPA—are important for health, including a healthy cardiovascular system, healthy joints, inflammation levels, eyes, bones and skin.
Now omega-3s may play a role in healthy aging. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicates that omega-3s slow down the shortening of structures at the end of chromosomes called telomeres. This is significant because telomeres are involved in the stability and replication of chromosomes and are markers of biological aging. For example, environmental stressors, exposure to certain chemicals, free radicals and genetic factors can all shorten the length of telomeres, thereby hastening the natural aging process. This newer research, however, shows that omega-3s slow down the shortening of telomeres, meaning that omega-3s may support healthy aging at the cellular level.
Interestingly, past studies indicate that those with unhealthy cardiovascular status who have a high dietary intake of marine omega-3s live longer than those who have the same level of unhealth but don’t have adequate omega-3s in their diet. That prompted a University of California, San Francisco doctor and his colleagues to see whether omega-3 fatty acids—particularly DHA and EPA—were linked to blood cell telomere length and the resultant longer life. They were.
The researchers discovered that those with the least amount of DHA and EPA had the most rapid rate of telomere shortening, but those with the highest levels of DHA and EPA had the slowest rate of telomere shortening. The study’s authors observed, “Levels of DHA plus EPA were associated with less telomere shortening before and after sequential adjustment for established risk factors. Each 1-standard deviation increase in DHA plus EPA levels was associated with a 32 percent reduction in the odds of telomere shortening.”
What’s more is that this life-extending benefit of adequate omega-3 intake may apply to everyone, not only to those with unhealthy cardiovascular states. If there’s a downside to this finding, however, it’s that people usually don’t get enough omega-3s. In fact, we consume too many omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3s—about 20 times more. That’s right. The typical ratio in the American diet is 20 omega-6s to one omega-3. A healthier ratio is four omega-6s to one omega-3, although some say a one-to-one ratio is even better.
So, how can you get more omega-3s in your diet? Some excellent and conventional sources of omega-3s include coldwater fish, preferably wild, like salmon, cod, halibut and tuna; organic eggs from hens allowed to feed on insects and green plants; flaxseeds and flaxseed oil; and walnuts.
You can even get raw omega-3s in your diet, including properly prepared dishes featuring grassfed beef, wild salmon or tuna and raw vegetables, fruits and nuts. There are even “hidden” omega-3s in foods like fermented dairy—including yogurt, kefir, cream and hard cheeses—as well as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, avocados, spinach, zucchini, kale, broccoli, quinoa, lentils, barley and more.
One thing’s for sure: there’s power in O3s, so you’ll want to make sure you get enough omega-3s in your diet. There are just too many benefits you’ll miss out on otherwise, including a possible longer normal lifespan.