San Francisco, CA—Fish oil is recommended by oncologists, cardiologists and neurologists because of the many beneficial effects it has heart health, brain function, joint health, immune function and more. Although the evidence exists that fish oil plays an influential role in these health benefits, the understanding of the mechanisms behind this fatty acid and its microbiological functionality is lacking. However, new data from the San Francisco General Hospital, published in JAMA, shed some light on this topic.
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A research group, based here, suggests that fish oil has such a pervasively beneficial effect on the body due to its interaction with telomeres. Telomeres are the genetic “fuses” on the ends of chromosomes, which keep DNA organized. Every time a cell divides and the DNA replicates, the telomeres at the end of chromosomes shorten. Telomerase is an enzyme that works to repair the shortened telomeres; however, over time telomerase cannot keep up with cellular division and the telomeres begin to permanently shorten. Once the telomere length reaches a critical point, the DNA can no longer replicate properly, and the cell dies. Once this trend begins in a group of cells, or tissue, it can cause dysfunction of the organ composed of this aged tissue.

The recent San Francisco General Hospital study elucidates the relationship between fish oil and telomeric aging in 608 patients with coronary heart disease. In measuring the baseline levels of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, as well as leukocyte telomere length, an inverse relationship was drawn between baseline blood levels of DHA and EPA and the rate of telomere shortening over a five-year period. These results suggest a strong association between fish oil acids and the inhibition of cellular aging; however additional research remains to be done.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, March 2010