OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS – WHY DO WE NEED THEM?

A study by Farzaneh-Far et al indicates that a diet containing antioxidant omega-3 fatty acids is associated with reduced rate of telomere shortening, whereas a lack of these antioxidants correlates with increased rate of telomere attrition in study participants.

fresh salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids for your diet

The authors followed omega-3 fatty acid levels in blood and telomeres length in these individuals over a period of 5 years and found an inverse correlation, indicating that antioxidants reduce the rate of telomere shortening. Similarly, the women who consumed a diet lacking antioxidants had shorter telomeres and a moderate risk for development of breast cancer, whereas the consumption of a diet rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E, C and beta-carotene was associated with longer telomeres and lower risk of breast cancer.

Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial in other ways. Omega -3 fatty acids belong to a broader group of fats known as polyunsaturated fats.

The simplest is called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA which is an especially important nutrient to get from our food since our bodies cannot make it from scratch. Many commonly eaten plant and animal foods contain ALA. Other omega-3s, such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) can be made from ALA under the right circumstances. ALA, EPA and DHA all play important roles in support of our health. However, each has a different benefit. I’ll discuss that in future newsletters.

We should consume a total of omega-3 fats in the quantity of 2.45 grams per day. EPA and DHA should contain 400-500 milligrams per day.

 

Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are the precursors for proinflammatory molecules. The molecules that promote and maintain inflammatory reactions. Omega-3 fats, in contrast, are the precursors for anti-inflammatory molecules. Inflammatory reactions are an integral part of the way your body protects you against infections and promote healing, but the body must be able to turn off its inflammatory defenses when its work is done.

 

When you lack a balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats, your body can’t turn off these inflammatory reactions, which then promotes conditions of chronic inflammation. Current research continues to support the notion that diseases such as atherosclerosis, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and asthma are perpetuated by a heightened inflammatory state, and that in individuals with these conditions, the pro-inflammatory omega-6 essential fats are not balanced by adequate amounts of these anti-inflammatory omega-3s.

 

Unfortunately the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is unknown, but it is estimated to be around 1:25. In order to achieve a more beneficial ratio, it is important to decrease the amount of omega-6 acids in your diet while increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids like EPA, DHA, and ALA.

 

Foods richest in omega-3 fats such as cold-water fish like salmon, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and leafy green vegetables. Nuts, seeds, fish and extra virgin olive oil, are great sources of the healthy fats to optimize your health.

 

REFERENCES

Dietary Intake of Antioxidants Reduces the Rate of Telomere Shortening. Farzaneh-Far R, Cawthon RM, Na B, et al. Prognositic value of leukocyte telomere length in patients with stable coronary artery disease: data from the Heart and Soul Study. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2008;28:1379-1384. (PMC free article) (Pub Med).