Excess Omega-6 Intake Speeds Telomere Damage and Aging
Monday, February 06, 2012
Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Will the real evil fat please stand up? A new study shows that eating too much food of any type will shorten your telomeres and cause accelerated aging. However, the worst type of food appears to be excess consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, not saturated fats.
The research evaluated the diets and measured telomere length of people at age 30, then repeated the measurements at age 42. Those who ate the most food had shorter telomeres, with omega-6 oils showing as the worst offenders.
Omega-6 fatty acids permeate the American food supply. You’ll find them in potato chips, corn chips, and French fries. They are often the base oil in many salad dressings, and are the primary fatty acid in corn oil, soy oil, and other vegetable oils. They are typically modified into partially hydrogenated vegetable oil for use in breads and packaged foods.
During human evolution the ratio of omega-6 oils to omega-3 oils (DHA and EPA) was 4 to 1. Today, in a typical American diet that ratio is 20 to 1 or even worse. The imbalance of omega-6 oils to omega-3 oils causes many problems, since there is competition for enzymes and the relative lack of omega-3 tilts one’s body into an inflammatory condition. I have previously reported that omega-3 oils actually help preserve your telomeres.
Telomere length, a key marker of biological age, is shortened prematurely when an adverse state of biochemistry exists, such as the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 oils. Overeating in general is one way to shorten your telomeres, and excess consumption of omega-6 oils appears to be the fastest way to grow old in a hurry.
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