Omega-3s May Slow Aging in Heart Patients
Heart Disease Patients With High Omega-3 Fatty Acids Age More Slowly on Cellular Level.
By: Kathleen Doheny
WebMD Health News Reviewed by: Louise Chang, MD
Previous studies have shown that heart disease patients with a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids — found in fish and in dietary supplements — have higher survival rates.
The new study may help explain why. ”We’ve shown an entirely new effect of omega-3 fatty acids, which may be to slow down the biological aging process in patients with coronary heart disease,” says lead author Ramin Farzaneh-Far, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco.
Farzaneh-Far and his colleagues looked at a marker of biological age — the rate of shortening of telomeres, structures at the end of a chromosome involved in its replication and stability. As the telomeres shorten over time, the eventual result is cell death, scientists believe.
In previous research, Farzaneh-Far says, his team looked at the same group of heart disease patients and found that telomere length was ”a powerful predictor of death and bad outcomes [from heart disease]. In that [study], we found the shorter your telomeres, the greater your risk of death.”
In the new study, the higher the blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the patients evaluated, the slower the rate of telomere shortening.
“We looked at the biological effects of higher blood levels,” Farzaneh-Far tells WebMD, “not supplement intake.”
The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
For the study, the researchers evaluated 608 patients with stable heart disease, recruited from the Heart and Soul Study from September 2000 and December 2002, following them up for a median of six years (half were followed more, half less).
Participants gave blood samples at the beginning of the study, which were evaluated for omega-3 fatty acid levels. The researchers also isolated DNA from the blood and evaluated the length of the telomere of the leukocyte, a type of blood cell.
Over the follow-up period, “patients with the lowest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids exhibited a rate of telomere shortening 2.6 times faster than patients with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids,” Farzaneh-Far tells WebMD.
How does that relate to aging? “We don’t have enough data to be able to convert the changes of telomere shortening into years of aging,” he says. “This may be one of the first studies to look at the change in telomere length over time.”
There was no association found between omega-3 fatty acid levels and telomere length at the study start. The researchers aren’t sure why, but state that omega-3 fatty acid levels is one of many influences on the length of the telomeres, with other factors including inflammation in the body, obesity, oxidative stress, and lack of physical activity.
Would high omega-3 blood levels help those without heart disease? Farzaneh-Far can’t say. ”Whether this effect of omega-3 fatty acids on telomere length is present in those without coronary heart disease, I just can’t say,” Farzaneh-Far says, noting it was beyond the scope of the study. However, he adds, ”it could be.” Telomere shortening occurs in everyone, he says.
Omega-3s May Slow Aging in Heart Patients
Heart Disease Patients With High Omega-3 Fatty Acids Age More Slowly on Cellular Level
Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Aging: Other Opinions
”This is very exciting news, to show how fish oil works on a cellular level,” says Ravi Dave, MD, a cardiologist at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center & Orthopedic Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at the University of California Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine.
The new finding, he tells WebMD, builds on previous research. “There has been a strong association found that if you take marine omega-3 fatty acids, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Researchers have been trying to pin down why. Several proposed mechanisms have been found, including reduction of inflammation in the body or reducing the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, Dave says. With the new finding, he says, “it’s no longer a hypothesized mechanism. It has some basis behind how it works.” But, he adds, “fish oils are only one of the things that affect telomere length.” Many other factors, he says, such as oxidative stress on the cells, play a role. Eventually, Dave says, if the telomere research bears out, a test to check a person’s telomere length may be one way to predict the risk of heart disease.
The new research demonstrates a protective effect of fish oil on the aging clock, adds Robert Zee, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of molecular epidemiology at the division of preventive medicine of Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. He has reported a link between shorter telomere length and heart attacks. But the new findings need replication, he says.
Omega-3s and Health: Advice
What should healthy people and those with heart disease do in terms of omega-3s?
Farzaneh-Far points to the existing American Heart Association guidelines. “The American Heart Association already recommends at least a gram a day” of omega-3 fatty acid intake for those with documented heart disease, he says. Preferably it should come from oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, or albacore tuna, according to the AHA, but supplements could be considered if a patient’s doctor agrees.
For those who don’t have heart disease, the AHA recommends eating a variety of fish, preferably oily types such as salmon, at least twice a week, and including in the diet healthy oils such as flaxseed, canola, and soybean.
One of the researchers, William S. Harris of the University of South Dakota, reports receiving research grants from companies with interests in omega-3 fatty acids. Another co-author, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD, shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.
10/19/2007 – Supplements of vitamin E may counteract complications in type-2 diabetics linked to an increased risk of heart disease, says a new study from Italy.
Daily vitamin E supplements (500 International Units) were found to decrease levels of a protein associated with higher risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and ultimately cardiovascular disease in this study with 37 type-2 diabetics, published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.
“Vitamin E might therefore be effective in preventing early endothelial damage in type 2 diabetes mellitus, possibly representing a new tool for endothelial protection,” wrote lead author Arianna Vignini from Polytechnic University of Marche in Ancona.
In addition, the production of nitric oxide (NO) – a molecule key for better blood flow – increased by about 50 per cent after ten weeks of vitamin E supplementation.
Nitric oxide (NO) is a molecule used by the endothelium (cells lining the surface of blood vessels) to signal surrounding muscle to relax, leading to a reduction in blood pressure, reduced blood clotting and protection against myocardial infarction and strokes.
Despite the positive results and implications for type-2 diabetics, the authors sounded a note of caution, stating that no control arm with a placebo was used, and the study was not double-blind and randomised.
In terms of vitamin E supplements and heart health for the wider population, a recent study reported that a higher dose – 3200 International Units – of vitamin E is needed to reduce oxidative stress in individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease, and this may be why previous trials using lower doses failed to show any benefits for the vitamin (Free Radical Biology and Medicine, doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2007.06.019).
A number of epidemiological and animal studies have reported that antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene might offer some protection against heart attack in individuals at risk.
There are eight forms of vitamin E: four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta). Alpha-tocopherol (alpha-Toc) is the main source found in supplements and in the European diet, while gamma-tocopherol (gamma-Toc) is the most common form in the American diet.
Source: Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases (Elsevier)
Published on-line ahead of print, doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2007.01.002
“A study on the action of vitamin E supplementation on plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 and platelet nitric oxide production in type 2 diabetic patients”
Authors: A. Vignini, L. Nanetti, C. Moroni, R. Testa, C. Sirolla, M. Marra, S. Manfrini, D. Fumelli, F. Marcheselli, L. Mazzanti and R.A. Rabini
Q: Hello, I am interested in your mangosteen drink. I am a severely depressed person, with heart disease/high blood pressure and am also very overweight. I also suffered a stroke in 2003. My question- can I take this with my medications? (I currently take 9 different prescription pills a day for the above medical conditions. I have been warned not to mix them with any herbal remedies. I saw a list of the juices and i am not allergic to them. Does this really contain only natural juices?
A: Dear Gail, Based on what you are telling me I can’t make a recommendation. The liability on my end is too great. I would show the ingredients to your doctor and see what he/she says.
I don’t know the meds your on or your history. Your MD will be the best choice.
Marcus Ettinger DC, BSc.
I think dietary supplements do work, as they have been lifesaving (and money saving) for me. Examples: Instead of taking heart medicines with their harmful side effects, I take CoEnzyme Q10 with amazing results. I drink Goji Juice instead of harmful cholesterol lowering drugs, and my cholesterol went from 278 to 245 in less than a month. Acetyl-L-Carnitine relieves the heaviness in my legs (PAD syndrome?) without taking harmful drugs.
It always amazes me to discover just how many consumers have been brainwashed by dairy industry advertising into thinking that milk from cows is some sort of essential food for humans. In reality, cow’s milk is perfect nutrition for baby cows, but nutritionally incompatible with humans, most of whom are actually allergic to the substance.
Humans are the only species that will drink the mammary gland extract of another species. And we didn’t even choose a species close to us like monkeys or gorillas. No, we’ve chosen to drink milk from furry, four-legged creatures mostly because they’re the easiest ones to control and dope up with synthetic hormones that turn them into milk-generating machines for profit-motivated dairy operations.
All commercial milk from cows contains pus and blood, by the way. The USDA actually sets allowable limits of pus as a federal standard. (Check MilkSucks.com to see how much pus is found in milk in your State!) And that’s not to mention the toxic chemicals, PCBs, pesticides, perchlorate and other substances frequently found in milk products. Even if they were somehow free of these chemicals, nearly all commercially-produced milk is pasteurized and homogenized — a process that turns milk fats into artery-clogging substances that promote heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Yet western populations chug milk by the gallon, and then the people wonder why they suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, obesity, heart disease, sinusitis, acne, constipation and even diabetes. The answer is cow’s milk, folks. You’d be better off drinking human milk, but even that’s only for babies.
Announcement opens door to new food labels
WASHINGTON – The monounsaturated fat in olive oil may reduce the chances of suffering coronary heart disease, the Food and Drug Administration said Monday, opening the door to revised food labels.
As long as people don’t increase the number of calories they consume daily, the FDA found “limited but not conclusive evidence” suggesting reduced risk of coronary heart disease when people replace foods high in saturated fat with the monounsaturated fat in olive oil.
According to the American Heart Association, coronary heart disease accounted for 502,189 deaths ‘or one in five deaths’ in 2001, the most current statistic available. Another 13.2 million Americans that year survived the heart attacks, chest pains and other ailments caused by coronary heart disease.
Along with lowering cholesterol, cutting out cigarettes and exercising, the group says Americans can boost heart health by eating foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. An American Heart Association spokeswoman declined comment on the FDA’s action until it reviews the health claim.
“Since CHD is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States, it is a public health priority to make sure that consumers have accurate and useful information on reducing their risk,” Lester M. Crawford, acting FDA commissioner said in a prepared statement.
It’s the third time the FDA granted a qualified health claim for conventional food.
Olive oil and certain food containing olive oil can now indicate that “limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about two tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil,” the agency said.
Q: I HAVE RECENTLY HAD A HEART STINT PUT IN AT THE HOSPITAL. I HAVE BEEN DRINKING NONI JUICE FOR ABOUT A YEAR. I REALLY THINK THAT IT HAS HELPED ME IN MANY WAYS AS MY HEALTH GOES. I CAN FIND NO ONE THAT KNOWS IF IT IS OK FOR ME TO CONTINUE DRINKING NONI WITH MY NEW STINT. CAN YOU HELP ME. THANKS LARRY
A: Dear Larry,
I see no reason, medically or otherwise, why you can’t continue drinking your noni juice. You are probably right that it has helped. Take care of yourself and if you ever have any other questions, please feel free to e-mail me. Please read important data below.
Marcus Ettinger DC, BSc.
Noni juice may lower total cholesterol and triglycerides in adult smokers
Abstract P78 (EPI)
PHOENIX, Ariz., “Noni, an indigenous plant of the South Pacific used in Polynesian folk medicine for over 2,000 years, may lower total cholesterol and triglycerides, according to a study reported today at the American Heart Association’s 46th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention. “