High doses of omega-3 increase stress resistance and slow down the effects of aging


Ohio State University researchers reported that omega-3 supplementation at a dose of 2.5 grams per day for four months blocked the stress-related decrease in the activity of telomerase (an enzyme that rebuilds telomeres) and anti-inflammatory cellular signaling.

In addition, a lower dose (1.25 grams per day) was associated with a decrease in total levels of the stress hormone cortisol and IL-6 levels (a pro-inflammatory cytokine) in 138 sedentary, obese men and middle-aged women. according to results published in Molecular Psychiatry.

The researchers commented on the clinical significance of the results, noting that most American adults are not consuming the recommended levels of omega-3s. And while diet and lifestyle changes are often difficult to sustain, the high compliance rates with omega-3 supplements reported in this study suggest that this type of diet change is feasible.

“In addition, these results suggest that, along with other dietary changes, daily omega-3 supplementation alone can help protect cells from the effects of acute stress factors and thus enable a healthy biological aging process.”

“Research in this area is moving in the right direction”.

Harry Rice, PhD, Vice President of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs at the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 Fatty Acids (GOED), independently commented on the results of the study, stating, “Omega-3 fatty acids have stress-relieving effects Relevant Biomarkers This is exciting news, especially at a time when many people continue to experience increased levels of stress and mental health problems.

“While there are still many questions to be answered before a recommendation for omega-3 intake and results related to stress reduction can be made, research in this area is proceeding in the right direction. It is of particular interest to know whether or not the present results can be generalized to the whole population. ”

Study details.

“Taken together, these results provide initial indications that omega-3 has a unique stress-buffering effect on biomarkers relevant to cell aging and the mental health of a sedentary, overweight, middle-aged sample,” the researchers write. Image © Valeriya / Getty Images

Led by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of the Institute of Behavioral Medicine in the state of Ohio, the researchers randomly assigned the 93 women and 45 men to one of three groups: placebo or one of two omega-3s -Groups received 1.25 g / d or 2.5 g / d omega-3 for four months. The participants were subjected to the Trier social stress test before and after the intervention phase. The Trier Social Stress Test is a 20-minute test that combines a language and mathematical subtraction task that is known to reliably produce an inflammatory stress response.

The results showed that the high-dose omega-3 supplement suppressed damage during the stress test compared to placebo, reducing cortisol and IL-6 levels by an average of 19% and 33%, respectively.

In addition, both doses of omega-3 were associated with no changes in telomerase levels in the two hours following the stress test, indicating that the required stress-related cell repair – including telomere restoration – could be performed as usual. On the other hand, the placebo group showed an approximately 24% decrease in telomerase, while anti-inflammatory IL-10 levels also decreased by an average of at least 20%.

The researchers also suggested that reducing stress-related inflammation could also help omega-3 fatty acids disrupt the link between repetitive stress and depressive symptoms.

“Not everyone who is depressed has increased inflammation – around a third. This explains why omega-3 supplementation does not always lead to a reduction in depressive symptoms, ”said Prof. Kiecolt-Glaser. “Unless you have increased inflammation, omega-3s may not be very helpful. But for people with depression who do, our results suggest that omega-3s would be more useful. “


The aging and lifespan of normal, healthy cells are related to the so-called telomerase shortening mechanism, which limits the cells to a fixed number of divisions. During cell replication, the telomeres work by making sure that the cell’s chromosomes don’t fuse or rearrange, which can lead to cancer.

Elizabeth Blackburn, a telomere pioneer at the University of California at San Francisco, compared telomeres to the ends of shoelaces, without which the tip would untangle.

With each replication, the telomeres shorten, and when the telomeres are completely used up, the cells are destroyed (apoptosis). Previous studies have also reported that telomeres are very susceptible to oxidative stress and inflammation. Telomere length is also recognized as a marker for biological aging.

“The fact that our results were dose-dependent and we see more impact with the higher omega-3 dose would suggest that this supports a causal relationship.” would undermine telomere length, ”said Annelise Madison, lead author of the paper and a PhD student in clinical psychology at Ohio State. “The assumption, based on previous work, is that telomerase can help rebuild telomere length, and you want to have enough telomerase to make up for stress-related damage.

Source: Molecular Psychiatry
Published online before going to press, doi: 10.1038 / s41380-021-01077-2
“Omega-3 Supplementation and Stress Reactivity of Biomarkers for Cell Aging: A Complementary Sub-Study of a Randomized, Controlled Study in Middle-Aged Adults”
Authors: AA Madison et al.


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