The case for inclusion of omega-3s in our diets keeps building and building. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that high levels of omega-3 in the blood are associated with a slower rate of biological aging.

The body is able to synthesize many of the fats it needs for good health. However, some fats can only be found from our diet. They used to be called vitamin F because it is essential we eat them to stay healthy. The most well known of these are the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids (ω-3 ) are used by the body to make signalling molecules, known as eicosanoids, which control a number of important pathways relevant to aging, including inflammation, immune function and cell growth. Diet naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, partly by lowering blood pressure and harmful cholesterol levels, stimulating local circulation and preventing clotting. Diets high in omega-3 fats also have beneficial effects on other problems of aging, including cognitive decline, depression, arthritis and varicose veins.

The most nutritionally important omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid, which is found in plants, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are highest in oily fish. It is generally recommended to eat a gram of EPA and DHA each day or 2-3g/dayof alpha-linolenic acid, which must be converted for it to work in humans. This is the equivalent of an oily fish meal 2-3 times a week. If you can’t keep this up, a number of supplements are available which contain large amounts of omega-3, including fish oils and flaxseed (linseed) oil.

Excerpt from Fast Living, Slow Ageing.

Last Reviewed 03/Mar/2014

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Dr Merlin Thomas

Professor Merlin Thomas is Professor of Medicine at Melbourne’s Monash University, based in the Department of Diabetes. He is both a physician and a scientist. Merlin has a broader interest in all aspects of preventive medicine and ageing. He has published over 270 articles in many of the worlds’ leading medical journals
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