Barcelona, Spain – Add fatty fish to dinner tonight especially if you want to add years to your life. A new study finds that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood, which fish have in abundance, contribute to an approximately five-year longer than normal lifespan.
An international team has found that just a 1 percent increase in omega-3 levels reduces a person’s risk of death as much as quitting smoking. Their study shows that measuring these levels in the blood can be an extremely effective tool for calculating life expectancy.
Researchers from the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Spain and the Fatty Acid Research Institute in the United States have teamed up to study data from the Framingham descendant cohort. This report has been tracking residents of a Massachusetts city since 1971. The results show that measuring omega-3 levels in red blood cells is similar to measuring smoking habits when it comes to calculating life expectancy.
“A higher level of these acids in the blood as a result of the regular intake of fatty fish increases life expectancy by almost five years,” says Dr. Aleix Sala-Vila of IMIM’s Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group in a media release.
“Being a regular smoker cuts your life expectancy by 4.7 years, just like you do if you have high omega-3 acids in your blood,” he adds.
Is Saturated Fat a Good Thing?
The team analyzed data on blood fatty acid levels from over 2,200 people over the age of 65. The study monitored each person’s health for approximately 11 years.
Surprisingly, the results show that four types of fatty acids contribute positively to human life expectancy – including two saturated fatty acids. Typically, health professionals advise people to stay away from saturated fats as they have been linked to heart disease. However, recent studies have found that some of these fats can actually help keep people healthy.
“This confirms what we’ve seen lately,” adds Dr. Sala-Vila added. “Not all saturated fats are necessarily bad.”
“What we found is not insignificant. It reinforces the idea that small changes in diet in the right direction can have a much stronger effect than we think, and it is never too late or too early to make these changes, ”concludes the researcher.
The study authors are now planning to investigate these fatty acids in a larger part of the population, including in Europe. To get more omega-3s, the American Heart Association recommends eating oily fish like salmon, anchovies, or sardines twice a week.
The study appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.