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Omega-3s May Slow Aging in Heart Patients

Heart Disease Patients With High Omega-3 Fatty Acids Age More Slowly on Cellular Level

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.

Omega-3s and Health: Advice

What should healthy people and those with heart disease do in terms of omega-3s?

Farzaneh-Far points to the existing American Heart Association guidelines. "The American Heart Association already recommends at least a gram a day" of omega-3 fatty acid intake for those with documented heart disease, he says. Preferably it should come from oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, or albacore tuna, according to the AHA, but supplements could be considered if a patient's doctor agrees.

For those who don't have heart disease, the AHA recommends eating a variety of fish, preferably oily types such as salmon, at least twice a week, and including in the diet healthy oils such as flaxseed, canola, and soybean.

One of the researchers, William S. Harris of the University of South Dakota, reports receiving research grants from companies with interests in omega-3 fatty acids. Another co-author, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD, shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.

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