Disclosures: Two study authors report being co-founders of Telome Health Inc., a telomere measurement company. The other authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
April 20, 2021
2 min read

Omega-3 supplementation may slow stress-related accelerated aging

Disclosures: Two study authors report being co-founders of Telome Health Inc., a telomere measurement company. The other authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Omega-3 supplementation may slow accelerated aging by altering the body’s response during and after a stressful event, according to study results published in Molecular Psychiatry.

“With this study, we wanted to see whether omega-3 supplementation could help to block the cellular toll of short-term psychological stress,” Annelise A. Madison, MA, of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, told Healio Psychiatry. “Prior to this study, higher omega-3 levels were linked to lower inflammation and slower cellular aging, but it was unclear whether omega-3 supplementation would alter the stress reactivity of biomarkers that are important to the cellular aging process. In this randomized, controlled trial, we looked at the impact of 4 months of omega-3 supplementation on peoples' blood levels of certain inflammatory markers, cortisol and telomerase, the enzyme that rebuilds the ends of chromosomes to ensure healthy cell division.”

Madison infographic

Specifically, Madison and colleagues assessed the effects of omega-3 supplementation on biomarkers related to cellular aging following a laboratory speech stressor among 138 middle-aged participants who were sedentary and overweight. For 4 months, participants received either 2.5 grams per day of omega-3, 1.25 grams per day of omega-3 or a placebo. They completed the Trier Social Stress Test before and after the trial, and the researchers collected their saliva and blood samples once before the stressor and multiple times after it to measure salivary cortisol, telomerase in peripheral blood lymphocytes and serum anti-inflammatory and proinflammatory cytokines.

The researchers adjusted for pre-supplementation reactivity, age, sagittal abdominal diameter and sex and observed altered telomerase (P = .05) and interleukin-10 (P = .05) stress reactivity linked to omega-3 supplementation. They noted protection among both supplementation groups from the 24% and 26% post-stress declines in the geometric means of telomerase and interleukin-10, respectively, that occurred among the placebo group. Further, omega-3 lowered overall cortisol (P = .03) and interleukin-6 (P = .03) levels throughout the stressor, with 19% and 33% lower overall cortisol and interleukin-6 geometric mean levels, respectively, among the 2.5 grams per day group compared with the placebo group.

“These findings indicate that omega-3 supplementation may promote healthy aging at the cellular level,” Madison said. “Our trial had high adherence rates and few adverse events, suggesting that omega-3 is well-tolerated. Most adults consume well below the recommended daily dietary intake of omega-3, and therefore, supplementation may be especially important and beneficial, even apart from other dietary changes.”