When the sixteenth-century explorer Ponce de Leon set sail to find the “fountain of youth” he instead found Florida.
Florida is beautiful and a great consolation prize, but couldn’t he have looked just a little harder? I’m sure we all might like to have a small bottle of those magical waters to stave off our pesky crow’s feet. Wouldn’t old Ponce be surprised to learn that today’s scientists may have found that illusive fountain right under his boat? That’s right. A recent study found that those fish swimming in the deep blue sea make a substantial difference in the aging process.
Let me clarify. The study, led by Ramin Farzaneh-Far, M.D., from the University of California at San Francisco, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that fish oil may actually slow aging (JAMA 2010 Jan 20; 303(3): 250-7). Put simply, fish might be the illusive fountain of youth.
The study sampled blood levels of fish oil called Omega-3 fatty acids in patients and correlated them with the youthfulness of their cellular genes. Those with high blood levels of Omega 3’s had the youngest-looking, longest “telomeres,” and those with the lowest levels of Omega-3 fatty acids had the shortest. Don’t be surprised if you have never heard of telomeres (I must have fallen asleep in genetics class because it was not ringing a bell with me either). They are actually compound structures located at the end of a chromosome. The longer the telomere, the more youthful the cell. Healthier telomeres result in lower biological age. Eating fish = high Omega-3 blood levels = longer telomeres = lower biological age = the Fountain of Youth!
I found a short YouTube film produced by the authors of the study that is interesting and explains the whole premise of the concept. I promise if you watch it and then discuss what you learn at the next cocktail party, you will sound like a proverbial brainchild, and your old friends will thank you!
But are there enough fresh fish in the fountain to keep us all young? This is a very important question. Fish supply management is paramount to sustainability and we are all concerned that we take good care of this phenomenal food source. A recently published article makes an excellent case for us to not worry. The op-ed was printed in the New York Times and also in the Seattle Metropolitan magazine. University of Washington Fisheries Department Professor Ray Hilborn reports that the sustainability of our fisheries, primarily in the US and cooperating areas, is looking very good. The systems of fish management that we now employ may keep our fountain of youth flowing for decades and generations to come. We hope to see you soon at Salty’s, a great source for fresh local sustainable seafood.