2nd August 2021
Omega-3 can boost life expectancy
High blood concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, which oily fish such as salmon are known to be rich in, can increase your life expectancy by nearly five years.
Levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood are as good a predictor of mortality from any cause as smoking, according to a new study. The Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) in Barcelona, Spain, in collaboration with the Fatty Acid Research Institute in the United States and several universities in both the United States and Canada, have published their findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
They used data from a long-term study group, the Framingham Offspring Cohort, which has monitored the residents of this city in Massachusetts, United States, since 1971.
The researchers found that omega-3 levels in blood erythrocytes (red blood cells) are very good mortality risk predictors. They conclude that "higher levels of these acids in the blood, as a result of regularly including oily fish in the diet, increases life expectancy by almost five years."
In contrast, "Being a regular smoker takes 4.7 years off your life expectancy, the same as you gain if you have high levels of omega-3 acids in your blood," explains Dr. Aleix Sala-Vila, a postdoctoral researcher in the IMIM and co-author of the study.
Dr. Sala-Vila and his team analysed data on blood fatty acid levels in 2,240 people over the age of 65, monitored for an average of 11 years. They aimed to validate which fatty acids function as good predictors of mortality, beyond the already known factors. Their results indicated that four types, including omega-3, fulfil this role. Interestingly, two other types are saturated fatty acids – traditionally associated with cardiovascular risk, but which, in this case, indicate a longer life expectancy.
"This reaffirms what we have been seeing lately", says Dr Sala-Vila, "not all saturated fatty acids are necessarily bad." Indeed, their levels in the blood cannot be modified by diet, as happens with omega-3 fatty acids.
The study findings may contribute to the personalisation of dietary recommendations for food intake, based on the blood concentrations of the different types of fatty acids. "What we have found reinforces the idea that small changes in diet in the right direction can have a much more powerful effect than we think, and it is never too late or too early to make these changes", remarks Dr. Sala-Vila.
The researchers will now try to analyse the same indicators in similar population groups, but of European origin, to find out if the results obtained can also be applied outside the United States. The American Heart Association recommends eating oily fish such as salmon, anchovies or sardines twice a week because of the health benefits of omega-3 acids. The National Institutes of Health suggests an adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids is 1.1 grams per day for adult females and 1.6 grams per day for adult males.
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