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Eat omega-3 rich fish, live longer

January 30, 2010

Eating more omega-3 rich fish may slow down the shortening of your telomeres–which is associated with the rate at which you’re aging.

That’s according to researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and other hospitals, who studied 608 patients with coronary artery disease (CAD). The study, reported recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association , showed that after 5 years, patients with higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had longer telomeres than those with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Telomeres? Those are the stretches of DNA found at the end of your chromosomes. Telomeres help protect against cellular damage–and indicate when damage has taken place. As we grow older, years of cell divisions result in the shortening of telomeres–indicating the likelihood that cellular damage has occurred that may lead to disease.

OK, so what kind of fish do you need to eat–and how much?

Cold-water fish (such as salmon, lake trout, sardines and mackerel) are the highest source of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexanoic (DHA) omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends 2 3.5-oz servings a week for people without documented coronary heart disease (CHD), and about a gram a day from fatty fish for those with documented CHD.

According to Tufts University, foods that can help contribute omega-3 fatty acids include:

Fish (4 oz-portion)                                        Total omega-3 fatty acids:

Fresh or frozen salmon                                      1.7 g 

Canned salmon, drained                                    2.2 g

Sardines, canned in oil, drained                     1.8 g

Tuna, canned in water, drained                      0.3 g

Mackerel, canned, drained                               2.2 g

Bluefish, fresh or frozen, cooked                    1.7 g


What about mercury, PCBs and dioxins?

As we know, some fish is tainted. These 2004 FDA guidelines on fish consumption for pregnant and nursing mothers and young children may be helpful. For these individuals and others (including those who dislike fish) mercury-free fish oil supplements may also slow telomere shortening.

Here’s a Wall Street Journal story about the researchers’ findings. For further info, reported on the study.

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