In addition to offering protection against heart disease and allergies, omega-3s have been shown to support skin, hair, brain and hormone health.
Now new research from Brazil shows just why it is beneficial in so many areas: it possesses the unique ability to prevent DNA damage in the body.
The study, conducted on adolescents between the ages of 9 and 13, was published in the journal Food & Function in April 2020.
The modern diet problem
Researchers noted that in Brazil—as in other developed countries—diets have shifted to more processed foods with fewer micronutrients and higher levels of sugar, additives and processed fats.
In addition to omega-3 levels, the researchers also tested blood levels for Vitamin B12, beta-carotene and riboflavin; however, while the other nutrients have their own proven health benefits, only omega-3s were associated with reducing DNA damage.
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids characterized by the presence of a double bond three atoms away from the terminal methyl group in their chemical structure. Wikipedia states: “Omega-3s are widely distributed in nature, being important constituents of animal lipid metabolism, and they play an important role in the human diet and in human physiology.”
The inflammation fighter
So, how exactly do omega-3s protect DNA?
Using the technical jargon recorded by the researchers, it works this way: “Omega-3 EPA and DHA are substrates for the synthesis of pro-resolving mediators of inflammation that play a key role in the resolution and balance of the inflammatory process.”
A simplified way of stating it is that they protect against DNA damage by “mediating inflammatory pathways.”
Or even more simply: Omega-3s reduce inflammation.
Data collection for the study included body measurements, assessment of energy intake and blood sampling.
Researchers also used single-cell gel electrophoresis. Single-cell electrophoresis—also known as comet assay—is the most widely used method for evaluating DNA damage.
Since DNA damage is connected to a wide variety of chronic diseases—such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer—researchers believe assessing omega-3 status could be a way to proffer a protection plan early on. And, with researchers noting that the Brazilian study does corroborate earlier studies, future widespread adopting of omega-3 supplementing seems likely.