Study Title:

Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels Prevent Telomeric Aging

Study Abstract

Context Increased dietary intake of marine omega-3 fatty acids is associated with prolonged survival in patients with coronary heart disease. However, the mechanisms underlying this protective effect are poorly understood.

Objective To investigate the association of omega-3 fatty acid blood levels with temporal changes in telomere length, an emerging marker of biological age.

Design, Setting, and Participants Prospective cohort study of 608 ambulatory outpatients in California with stable coronary artery disease recruited from the Heart and Soul Study between September 2000 and December 2002 and followed up to January 2009 (median, 6.0 years; range, 5.0-8.1 years).

Main Outcome Measures We measured leukocyte telomere length at baseline and again after 5 years of follow-up. Multivariable linear and logistic regression models were used to investigate the association of baseline levels of omega-3 fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid [DHA] and eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA]) with subsequent change in telomere length.

Results Individuals in the lowest quartile of DHA+EPA experienced the fastest rate of telomere shortening (0.13 telomere-to-single-copy gene ratio [T/S] units over 5 years; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.09-0.17), whereas those in the highest quartile experienced the slowest rate of telomere shortening (0.05 T/S units over 5 years; 95% CI, 0.02-0.08; P < .001 for linear trend across quartiles). Levels of DHA+EPA were associated with less telomere shortening before (unadjusted β coefficient x 10–3 = 0.06; 95% CI, 0.02-0.10) and after (adjusted β coefficient x 10–3 = 0.05; 95% CI, 0.01-0.08) sequential adjustment for established risk factors and potential confounders. Each 1-SD increase in DHA+EPA levels was associated with a 32% reduction in the odds of telomere shortening (adjusted odds ratio, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.47-0.98).

Conclusion Among this cohort of patients with coronary artery disease, there was an inverse relationship between baseline blood levels of marine omega-3 fatty acids and the rate of telomere shortening over 5 years.




From press release:

Patients with coronary heart disease who had higher omega-3 fatty acid blood levels had an associated lower rate of shortening of telomere length, a chromosome marker of biological aging, raising the possibility that these fatty acids may protect against cellular aging, according to a study in the January 20 issue of JAMA.

Several studies have shown increased survival rates among individuals with high dietary intake of marine omega-3 fatty acids and established cardiovascular disease. The mechanisms underlying this protective effect are not well understood, according to background information in the article.

Telomeres are a structure at the end of a chromosome involved in the replication and stability of the chromosome. Genetic factors and environmental stressors can shorten the length of the telomere, with telomere length becoming an emerging marker of biological age.

Ramin Farzaneh-Far, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues conducted a study to determine whether omega-3 fatty acid blood levels were associated with changes in leukocyte (a type of blood cell) telomere length in a study of 608 outpatients with stable coronary artery disease. The patients were recruited between September 2000 and December 2002 for the Heart and Soul Study, and followed up to January 2009 (median [midpoint], 6.0 years). The researchers measured leukocyte telomere length at the beginning of the study and again after 5 years of follow-up. Multivariable models were used to examine the association of baseline levels of omega-3 fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid [DHA] and eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA]) with subsequent change in telomere length.

The researchers found that individuals in the lowest quartile of DHA+EPA experienced the most rapid rate of telomere shortening, whereas those in the highest quartile experienced the slowest rate of telomere shortening. "Levels of DHA+EPA were associated with less telomere shortening before and after sequential adjustment for established risk factors and potential confounders. Each 1-standard deviation increase in DHA+EPA levels was associated with a 32 percent reduction in the odds of telomere shortening," the authors write.

"In summary, among patients with stable coronary artery disease, there was an inverse relationship between baseline blood levels of marine omega-3 fatty acids and the rate of telomere shortening over 5 years."

"These findings raise the possibility that omega-3 fatty acids may protect against cellular aging in patients with coronary heart disease," the researchers write.

Study Information

Ramin Farzaneh-Far; Jue Lin; Elissa S. Epel; William S. Harris; Elizabeth H. Blackburn; Mary A. Whooley.
Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels With Telomeric Aging in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease
JAMA
2010 January
Division of Cardiology, San Francisco General Hospital.

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