Omega-3s may promote healthy aging

Healthy aging is a lifelong process that involves maintaining a proper diet, a good exercise regimen and the right vitamin supplements. For example, a recent study from Ohio State University researchers showed that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be able to help slow down the aging process and keep people feeling younger, longer.

Researchers examined overweight yet healthy middle-aged and older adults to reach this conclusion. They discovered that individuals who took omega-3 supplements for four months were able to help preserve segments of their DNA called telomeres. These exist in many different types of cells and shorten over time as the result of aging. The scientists found that the more omega-3s people consumed, the longer their telomeres seemed to be.

The scientists explained that telomeres are like the plastic around the tips of a shoelace. They are caps at the end of chromosomes that protect them.

"If that plastic comes off, the shoelace unravels and it doesn’t work anymore," said study co-author Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR) at Ohio State. "In the same way, every time a cell divides, it loses a little bit of its DNA at the ends, and over time, that can cause significant problems."

Supplements make a difference

According to Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State and lead author of the study, these findings are exciting because they suggest that a nutritional supplement may actually make a difference when it comes to aging. Scientists are constantly searching for new ingredients that will be able to slow the aging process, and this study suggests that a long-known crucial fatty acid may have been one of the keys all along.

Kiecolt-Glaser added that people who experience chronic stress may gain even more benefits from taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

More tips for healthy aging

WebMD offers other tips for how people can age healthily. First, it's important for elderly individuals to remain active to keep their weight under control and their muscles and bones strong. Next, older people need to be sure to eat right. For example, low-fat quality protein such as poultry, fish, eggs and soy are important to keep people healthy.

Furthermore, carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy, so it's important to get healthy amounts of them. These include vegetables, whole grains and fruits, all of which are healthy sources of carbs.