As if you need another reason to indulge in salmon and tuna sashimi: a recent study has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the rate of decay in a key DNA segment related to aging.

Researchers from Ohio State University worked with two groups of healthy older adults. One was given Omega-3 supplements for four months while the other stood as a control group and was given nothing. reports that aside from a reduction of oxidative stress caused by free radicals, those who took Omega-3 supplements had healthier “telomeres” as compared to those who didn’t.

Telomeres are tiny DNA segments in white blood cells which shorten as a consequence of aging. By improving the fatty acid ratio in the body, telomeres are preserved, and in return, improves the immune system and slows the aging process. Telomeres can be likened to the ends of shoelaces; they act as “caps” for chromosomes. Should the end of a shoelace come off, the lace will unravel and be unusable. The same can be said with DNA. The shortening of telomeres due to cellular division contributes to degeneration over time. By strengthening and lengthening telomeres, cellular DNA is preserved.

While this study on telomeres and Omega-3 fatty acids may be good news, it still doesn’t tell the whole story. Vegetable oil is rich in Omega-6 fatty acids and has been found to help protect the cardiovascular system. The problem lies in consumption: people consume more Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3. The study analyzed the participants who had a more balanced Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio and found that those with lower ratios (4:1 or 2:1) had significant lengthening of telomeres.

Not only is this fatty acid great with fighting aging, it has also been shown that it lessens the risk of cardiovascular disease due to inflammation. It even improves joint health and shields you against arthritis. The great thing about this is that Omega-3 is easy to find; just have your regular fill of seafood and vegetables and you’re good to go.

(Photo by [puamelia] via Flickr Creative Commons)

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