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Can Fish Oil Fight Aging?

A new study shows that omega-3 reduces inflammation.

| July 20th, 2011
Can Fish Oil Fight Aging?

What if you could pop a pill that would improve your health and your looks and lower anxiety? It sounds too good to be true, but taking omega-3 supplements—nature’s anti-inflammatory—may do just that.

A new study published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity found that upping your fish oil intake significantly reduces both inflammation, which is behind many chronic, age-related diseases and anxiety.

Earlier research has shown that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), may improve health when added to the diet. Both nutrients have been thought to lower levels of inflammation-causing cytokines produced by the immune system. Researchers at Ohio State University decided to test that theory.

Since stress boosts the levels of cytokines in the body, the researchers tested stressed out first- and second-year medical students to find out whether increasing omega-3 intake could balance things out, decreasing inflammation.

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Half of the students received omega-3 supplements equivalent to about four or five times the strength of fish oil you’d get from a daily serving of salmon, according to study co-author Martha Belury, while the other half were given placebo pills.

The result? Students who popped the omega-3 pills had a 14 percent decrease in the level of inflammation-causing cytokines and a 20 percent drop in anxiety levels.

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Inflammation is believed to be the culprit behind ailments ranging from heart disease to cancer. Lowering inflammation not only improves your health and anxiety levels, it can also help ward off fine lines and lead to clear skin. According to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen, inflammation plays a role in wrinkles: The repetition of your skin bending over the muscle creates inflammation and the collagen gets squeezed together, causing wrinkles.

What’s more, inflammation has been linked to skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, as well as overall aging.

Los Angeles dermatologist and creator of RejuveMD, Alex Khadavi, M.D., says that the study results support the belief that consuming omega-3 significantly benefits the health and beauty of the skin you’re in. “Omega-3 consumption along with a balanced diet is important in overall skin health and the prevention of aging,” says Dr. Khadavi. “Inflammatory reactions may result in skin aging through unregulated destruction of the foundation of the skin. This leads to fine lines, wrinkles and dull and sagging skin.”

Taking higher dosages (2-3 grams daily) of EPA in particular—one of the fish oils used in the study—has shown promising clinical results for patients with skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and photodermatitis, an inflammatory skin reaction after mild sun exposure, adds Dr. Khadavi. He also points out that there is anecdotal evidence of EPA improving dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis) and rosacea.

So what’s the best way to go fish? The researchers recommend adding omega-3-rich foods to your normal diet, like salmon, which boasts the highest amount of EPA of all sea creatures, or halibut. If you’re not a fan of fish, try flaxseeds, walnuts or omega-3 supplements found at your local drugstore.

QUIZ: How Healthy is Your Skin?

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