Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats with many health-promoting properties. In addition to their important role in the proper functioning of the heart and brain, these fats may also be involved in protecting our genetic makeup via the telomeres, protecting us from the effects of aging.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that we cannot produce ourselves and therefore must come from our diet. There are two main types of omega-3: short-chain plant-based omega-3s found primarily in flaxseed and certain nuts (walnuts in particular), and animal-based omega-3s, long-chain found almost exclusively in oily fish.
The many health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids
Several studies have shown that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids play many beneficial roles in the proper functioning of our body: they are absolutely necessary for brain and retinal cell development during pregnancy; They play a crucial role in the transmission of nerve impulses by promoting better communication between brain cells. They regulate heart rhythm and also act as powerful anti-inflammatory molecules.
Even if fats have acquired a bad reputation in recent decades, we must not forget that omega-3 fats, on the contrary, are essential for maintaining health and that we must pay particular attention to the regular consumption of foods containing significant amounts of them contain fats.
A large number of studies have shown that in people with cardiovascular disease, high consumption of omega-3 of animal origin significantly reduces the risk of recurrence and improves survival. The data we have suggests that the antiarrhythmic and anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fats play an important role in this protective effect; However, the diversity of targets affected by omega-3 fatty acids suggests that other processes may also mediate these preventive properties.
The more omega-3 fatty acids, the longer the telomeres.
To better understand the mechanisms affected by omega-3 fatty acids, researchers at the University of California investigated the connection between the consumption of these fats and the length of telomeres – structures at the ends of our chromosomes thought to be markers of cell aging. In fact, the gradual loss of telomeres is a key factor in the aging of our organisms, and the presence of short telomeres very often reflects the extent of damage to a cell and its premature aging.
By following 608 patients who had had a heart attack for five years, the researchers found that the people with the highest omega-3 levels had the longest telomeres, while the inversely low omega-3 levels associated with shorter telomeres were. It, therefore, appears that the protective effect of omega-3 fatty acids against the recurrence of heart disease is at least partially related to a slowing of cellular aging through telomere preservation.
Two oily fish a week
These observations add to the impressive range of protective effects of omega-3 fatty acids against the development of a number of chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and various types of cancer. There is therefore no doubt that not excessive consumption of one or two meals of oily fish per week is an important addition to our dietary habits to prevent the development of these diseases.
Farzaneh-Far et al. Association of marine omega-3 fatty acid levels with telomeric aging in patients with coronary artery disease. JAMA, 303:250-7.
* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.
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