Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010

Feed Your Cells and Keep Them Young

Omega-3 fatty acids — found in fish oil and flaxseed — are already known to help protect you from such age-related illnesses as heart disease. Now research shows they may slow cellular aging.

Doctors followed 608 San Francisco patients with stable coronary-artery disease and found that those with high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had less telomere shortening over the next five years. Telomeres are protective caps at the ends of chromosomes (frequently likened to the plastic tips that keep shoelaces from fraying), and telomere length is increasingly seen as a marker for biological aging — entirely separate from chronological age.

In earlier research, cardiologist Ramin Farzaneh-Far, who led the new omega-3 study, helped show that telomere length can be a predictor of death risk in humans. The new finding is exciting because, he says, "it means that telomere shortening is not inevitable." A good diet may not just keep you healthy. Perhaps it really can keep you young.