Excessive shortening of the telomeric ends of chromosomes is a marker of accelerated aging. Oxidative stress and nutritional deficiency may influence this process. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (ω-3 PUFA) supplementation on telomeric shortening in elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Thirty-three adults ages > 65 y with MCI were randomized to receive a supplement rich in the long-chain ω-3 PUFAs eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 1.67 g EPA + 0.16 g docosahexaenoic acid DHA/d; n = 12) or DHA (1.55 g DHA + 0.40 g EPA/d; n = 12), versus ω-6 PUFA linoleic acid (LA; 2.2 g/d; n = 9) for 6 mo.
The intervention did not show an increase in telomere length with treatment and there was a trend toward telomere shortening during the intervention period. Linear mixed modeling produced a robust model although statistically underpowered. Telomere shortening was greatest in the LA group (d = 0.21) than in the DHA (d = 0.12) and EPA groups (d = 0.06). Increased erythrocyte DHA levels were associated with reduced telomere shortening (r = -0.67; P = 0.02) in the DHA group.
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Telomeric shortening may be attenuated by ω-3 PUFA supplementation, requiring further investigation in larger samples.