Association of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid intake with leukocyte telomere length in US males

Am J Clin Nutr. 2022 Dec 19;116(6):1759-1766. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqac263.


Background: Omega-3 (n-3) and omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids may contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation, which are related to telomere shortening. Evidence supporting an association between intake of n-3 or n-6 fatty acids and leukocyte telomere length (LTL) in males has been limited.

Objectives: We conducted a cross-sectional study to examine the associations of total or individual n-3 or total n-6 fatty acid intake with LTL in US males.

Methods: We included 2,494 US males with LTL measurement from 4 nested case-control studies within the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Individuals with previous histories of cancers, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases at or before blood collection were excluded. Blood collection was performed between 1993 and 1995, and relevant information including n-3 and n-6 intake was collected in 1994 by questionnaire. The LTL was log-transformed and Z scores of the LTL were calculated for statistical analyses by standardizing the LTL in comparison with the mean within each selected nested case-control study.

Results: We found that consumption of DHA (22:6n-3) was positively associated with LTL. In the multivariable-adjusted model, compared with individuals who had the lowest intake of DHA (i.e., first quartile group), the percentage differences (95% CIs) of LTL were -3.7 (-13.7, 7.5), 7.0 (-4.3, 19.7), and 8.2 (-3.5, 21.3) for individuals in the second, third, and fourth quartiles of consumption, respectively (P-trend = 0.0498). We did not find significant associations between total n-3 or total n-6 fatty acid intakes and LTL. In addition, we found that males who consumed canned tuna had longer LTL than those who did not; in the multivariable-adjusted model, the percentage difference of LTL was 10.5 (95% CI: 1.3, 20.4) (P = 0.02).

Conclusions: Our results suggest that higher intakes of DHA and canned tuna consumption are associated with longer LTL.

Keywords: docosahexaenoic acid; eicosapentaenoic acid; leukocyte telomere length; omega-3 fatty acid; omega-6 fatty acid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3* / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes
  • Male
  • Telomere*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Fatty Acids