TAG | omega-6
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.
It is well-known that fish is a healthy food. Even the American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fish every week for heart health. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the differences in omega-3 levels in fish.
For example, a woman who eats tilapia three times per week may think she is getting plenty of omega-3s, when in reality tilapia is much higher in omega-6 than omega-3. Or a man who eats a large portion of fried fish twice a week may think he is in the clear, but fish used for frying tends to be lower in omega-3s, and high in fat.
On the other hand, eating spicy tuna sushi rolls a few times a week may give you plenty of omega-3s, but what about the mercury content of that tuna? Fish that are higher up on the food chain (especially albacore tuna) concentrate toxins like mercury, and end up on your plate.
What’s a person to do? How can you protect your heart by eating the right fish in the right ways? It’s not easy, but it can be done. Honestly, your best bet is probably sardines, as it is a small fish (low in toxicity) with high omega-3 levels. But let’s face it, sardines aren’t exactly high on the list of big cravings. Another good option is wild salmon, baked or grilled.
But if you have more serious heart concerns and need more than the minimum recommended two servings of fish per week (which is equal to about 500 mg daily of the combined omega-3s EPA and DHA), then you’ll probably have to eat far more fish than you can stomach. This is where a good fish oil supplement comes in. A high-potency, concentrated fish oil can give you plenty of omega-3 in one softgel. Look for a fish oil that has the IFOS seal (International Fish Oil Standards), which exceeds world standards for purity. This ensures you are getting a pure fish oil, without all the toxins. Not all fish oil meets these standards.