This common supplement can do double duty in preventing stress

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In a new study from the Ohio State University, researchers found that a high daily dose of an omega-3 supplement may help slow the effects of aging by suppressing damage and boosting protection during and after a stressful event.

They found that daily supplements that contained 2.5 grams of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, the highest dose tested, were the best at helping the body resist the damaging effects of stress.

In the study, 138 research participants, age 40-85, took either 2.5 grams or 1.25 grams of omega-3s each day, or a placebo containing a mix of oils representing a typical American’s daily intake.

The team found people taking omega-3 supplements produced less of the stress hormone cortisol and lower levels of a pro-inflammatory protein during a stressful event.

Only the highest dose of omega-3s helped suppress damage during the stressful event when compared to the placebo group, lowering cortisol and a pro-inflammatory protein by an average of 19% and 33%, respectively.

And while levels of protective compounds sharply declined in the group without omega-3 after the stressor, there were no such decreases detected in people taking omega-3s.

The supplements contributed to what the researchers call stress resilience: reduction of harm during stress and, after acute stress, sustained anti-inflammatory activity and protection of cell components that shrink as a consequence of aging.

The potential anti-aging effects were considered particularly striking because they occurred in people who were healthy but also sedentary, overweight and middle-aged—all characteristics that could lead to a higher risk for accelerated aging.

The findings suggest that omega-3 supplementation is one relatively simple change people could make that could have a positive effect on breaking the chain between stress and negative health effects.

The researchers also suggested that by lowering stress-related inflammation, omega-3s may help disrupt the connection between repeated stress and depressive symptoms.

Previous research has suggested that people with a higher inflammatory reaction to a stressor may develop more depressive symptoms over time.

The study is published in Molecular Psychiatry. One author of the study is Annelise Madison.

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