Telomere shortening in elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment may be attenuated with ω-3 fatty acid supplementation: A randomized controlled pilot study

Nathan O'Callaghan, Natalie Parletta, Catherine M. Milte, Bianca Benassi-Evans, Michael Fenech, Peter R C Howe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: 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). Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusion: Telomeric shortening may be attenuated by ω-3 PUFA supplementation, requiring further investigation in larger samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-491
Number of pages3
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Apr 2014


  • DHA
  • EPA
  • Elderly
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Telomere length
  • ω-3 fatty acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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