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Heart Disease Health Center

Omega-3s May Slow Aging in Heart Patients

Heart Disease Patients With High Omega-3 Fatty Acids Age More Slowly on Cellular Level
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Omega-3s and Aging Study Details continued...

How does that relate to aging? "We don’t have enough data to be able to convert the changes of telomere shortening into years of aging," he says. "This may be one of the first studies to look at the change in telomere length over time."

There was no association found between omega-3 fatty acid levels and telomere length at the study start. The researchers aren't sure why, but state that omega-3 fatty acid levels is one of many influences on the length of the telomeres, with other factors including inflammation in the body, obesity, oxidative stress, and lack of physical activity.

Would high omega-3 blood levels help those without heart disease? Farzaneh-Far can't say. ''Whether this effect of omega-3 fatty acids on telomere length is present in those without coronary heart disease, I just can't say," Farzaneh-Far says, noting it was beyond the scope of the study. However, he adds, ''it could be.'' Telomere shortening occurs in everyone, he says.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Aging: Other Opinions

''This is very exciting news, to show how fish oil works on a cellular level," says Ravi Dave, MD, a cardiologist at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center & Orthopaedic Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at the University of California Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine.

The new finding, he tells WebMD, builds on previous research. "There has been a strong association found that if you take marine omega-3 fatty acids, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease."

Researchers have been trying to pin down why. Several proposed mechanisms have been found, including reduction of inflammation in the body or reducing the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, Dave says.

With the new finding, he says, "it's no longer a hypothesized mechanism. It has some basis behind how it works."

But, he adds, "fish oils are only one of the things that affect telomere length." Many other factors, he says, such as oxidative stress on the cells, play a role.

Eventually, Dave says, if the telomere research bears out, a test to check a person's telomere length may be one way to predict the risk of heart disease.

The new research demonstrates a protective effect of fish oil on the aging clock, adds Robert Zee, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of molecular epidemiology at the division of preventive medicine of Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. He has reported a link between shorter telomere length and heart attacks. But the new findings need replication, he says.

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