A new study reaffirms just how good for you Omega-3 fish oils could be for you. Existing research has long proven that Omega-3 fatty acids can help improve soft tissue integrity throughout your body: they can strengthen your brain, joints (ligaments/tendons), and your heart. The new study, however, adds that older adults with high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in their blood are more likely to live longer and without chronic disease or mental and/or physical deterioration.
That’s an important distinction at a time when medical technology and medicine are helping to extend lives, but not necessarily improving health outcomes.
For this study, researchers looked at the omega-3 blood levels of 2,622 adults, with data taken from the most recent Cardiovascular Health Study [of older Americans]. Study participants were an average age of 74 at the start of the data collection period (1992 and 1993), with a repeated blood test at 6 and 13 years following.
In the study, these blood tests measured participant blood levels of four types of omega-3s. Indeed, there are three types of omega-3s you can get from seafood—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA)—most commonly found in cold-water fatty fish like herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna. These omega-3 fatty acids—the ones derived from seafood—are known as long chain omega-3s. There is also one type of omega-3s found in plants—alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—commonly associated with flaxseed.
The researchers found that, over the course of the study, nearly 90 percent of the participants experienced unhealthy aging, resulting in the development of the chronic disease or in the demonstration of physical or mental decline. On the other hand, nearly 11 percent of the participants enjoyed good health even at this late stage of life: no heart disease, no cancer, no physical limitations, and no cognitive issues (in relation to daily living).
Looking closer at the data, then, the researchers were able to determine that it was those individuals who were found to have higher blood levels of the long chain omega-3s (EPA, from seafood; and, more importantly, not the kind derived from plants), which was associated with an 18 percent lower risk for unhealthy aging.
Essentially, then, lead study author Heidi TM Lai advises, “We should think about how to increase that level in our body.” The Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition and Policy postdoctoral fellow goes on to say, “This study supports national dietary guidelines to consume more seafood.”