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Omega 3 in Blood Cells Is Associated with Longevity

19 April 2019
Connie Packer

Red Blood Cells

I recently heard about the All of Us research program in the USA. It is a study looking at genetics and is recruiting nation wide. It is part of the Precision Medicine Initiative of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), planned to last at least 10 years. The goal is to learn more about what affects people’s health, including genetics. I’ve heard data collection for the study has been really ramping up in my area. Large observational studies such as this have proved helpful in identifying correlatives to disease conditions. Once correlatives are identified, the association can be further researched.

The Framingham Heart Study is an important long term study of heart disease risk. It recruited 5,209 men and women from Framingham, Massachusetts, who had no signs of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In 1971, their children were recruited as the Offspring Cohort. And in 2002, their grandchildren were recruited as the Third Generation Cohort. Following the same group of people over time has provided a wealth of information that has proven beneficial in identifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In efforts to gather data on a more diverse population in 1994, researchers recruited 500 non-caucasian residents, called the Omni Cohort. Later, spouses of the Offspring Cohort were recruited for inclusion. From time to time, the type of data collected is added upon and even includes postmortem brain tissue to study neurological disease.

Omega 3 may support heart health and longevity. Erythrocyte long-chain omega-3 fatty acid levels are inversely associated with mortality and with incident cardiovascular disease: The Framingham Heart Study. This study involved 2500 people in the Offspring and Omni cohorts of the Framingham Heart Study who had no history of coronary heart disease events or strokes. Rather than looking at diet or supplements, this study looked at red blood cell concentration of omega 3 in 2005-2008. They used data on health events and cause of death through 2016. The Omega 3 index (amount of EPA plus DHA) was associated with decreased heart related events, decreased incidence of stroke, and decreased mortality overall. The DHA concentration and EPA concentration of red blood cells were associated with fewer heart related events. It isn’t known if the correlation of omega 3 index is due to the level of omega 3 directly or the health behaviors these people participated in, but it may also involve genetics. Some people may need to supplement with more omega 3 in order to get their red blood cell concentration high enough to prevent heart related events. The researchers concluded that red blood cell levels of omega 3 “were associated with greater longevity and reduced risk for several CVD-related endpoints.”

Theanine and Caffeine may enhance attention. l-Theanine and caffeine improve target-specific attention to visual stimuli by decreasing mind wandering: a human functional magnetic resonance imaging study. This study involved 9 men aged 18-60 who participated in 5 weekly visits. During the first visit, the participants were oriented to the process and the visual reaction time task. During the visual reaction time task, the participant was shown a blue screen, then clicked a button when a white flash appeared (the target stimulus) and ignored red flashes (the distraction). During visits 2-5, the participants received either 200 mg of L-theanine, 160 mg of caffeine, a combination of 200 mg of L-theanine and 160 mg of caffeine, or distilled water (placebo), 60 minutes before repeating the visual reaction time task and fMRI. The fMRI data showed that theanine and caffeine affected different areas of the brain. Both the theanine and caffeine improved reaction times and the effect was additive. Both theanine and the theanine-caffeine combination reduced reaction time to the target stimulus compared to placebo. The researchers concluded that the combination of theanine and caffeine may improve visual color stimulus discrimination reaction time by decreasing mind wandering when a target stimulus is presented and decreasing early processing of distractor.

Lipoic Acid may support healthy brain and nerve function. Lipoic Acid Stimulates cAMP Production in Healthy Control and Secondary Progressive MS Subjects.  While this study focused on multiple sclerosis, the healthy controls also saw changes, which is why I want to share it. This study involved 20 healthy people. After breakfast, their blood was drawn, then they received 1200 mg lipoic acid (4x 300 mg capsules) with water. Blood was collected 1, 2, 3, 4, 24, and 48 hours later.  The lipoic acid supplement increased blood levels of lipoic acid and cAMP 2-4 hours after ingestion. Lipoic acid is known as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Increased cAMP levels inhibit T-cells and other inflammatory factors from migrating into the nervous system. The pathway of lipoic acid is starting to become more understood.

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