A recent study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that four months of omega-3 fish oil supplementation—either 2.5 grams or 1.25 grams daily of omega-3s from fish oil—was found to help preserve telomeres in white blood cells of the immune system. Telomeres are tiny segments of DNA that shorten over time as a result of aging. The shorter the telomere, the more you age.
In the study, those people who improved their ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids were most likely to also experience a lengthening of their telomeres as well as an average 15 percent reduction in oxidative stress. “The telomere finding is provocative in that it suggests the possibility that a nutritional supplement might actually make a difference in aging,” stated Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State and lead author of the study.
A previous article about this same study investigated the effects of the omega-3 supplementation on markers of inflammation, and found that omega-3 supplementation reduced inflammation. “Inflammation in particular is at the heart of so many health problems. Anything that reduces inflammation has a lot of potentially good spinoffs among older adults,” explained Glaser, “This finding strongly suggests that inflammation is what’s driving the changes in telomeres.”
Participants in both the high and low-dose groups experienced similar results, with the resulting improvement in omega-6 to omega-3 ratio the deciding factor of benefit. The Standard American Diet (SAD) contains an average omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 10:1 to 25:1 (much more omega-6 than omega-3) whereas experts recommend consumption of 1:1 to 2:1 (almost equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3) for maximum benefit.
If you want to know your omega-3 ratio, you can get it checked. The Omega-3 Index measures the level of omega-3, omega-6, and other fatty acids in your red blood cell membranes, and only requires a finger prick that you can do at home. Increasing your intake of omega-3 fats with fish oil supplements is a great way to optimize your Omega-3 Index.