Higher levels of omega-3 in the blood increase life expectancy by almost five years


A 1% increase in this substance in the blood is associated with a change in mortality risk similar to that associated with smoking cessation.

According to a study by the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) in collaboration with the Fatty Acid Research Institute in the United States, the level of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood is as good a predictor of mortality from any cause as smoking states and several universities in the United States and Canada. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, uses data from a long-term study group, the Framingham Offspring Cohort, who have been monitoring residents of this Massachusetts city in the United States since 1971.

Researchers have found that omega-3 levels in blood erythrocytes (called red blood cells) are very good predictors of mortality risk. The study comes to the conclusion that “a higher level of these acids in the blood through regular consumption of fatty fish increases life expectancy by almost five years,” said Dr. Aleix Sala-Vila, postdoc at the IMIMIM Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group and author of the study, points out. In contrast, “If you smoke regularly, your life expectancy will be 4.7 years shorter, just as you would if you have high levels of omega-3 acids in your blood,” he adds.

2,200 people monitored over eleven years

The study analyzed blood fatty acid level data from 2,240 people over the age of 65 who were monitored for an average of 11 years. The aim was to validate which fatty acids act as good predictors of mortality beyond the factors already known. The results show that four types of fatty acids, including omega-3, fulfill this role. What is interesting is that two of these are saturated fats, which have traditionally been associated with cardiovascular risk, but in this case indicate longer life expectancy. “This confirms what we’ve seen lately,” says Dr. Sala-Vila, “Not all saturated fats are necessarily bad.” In fact, diet cannot alter your blood levels, as is the case with omega-3s.

These results can help personalize dietary recommendations for ingestion based on the blood concentrations of the various fatty acids. “What we found is not insignificant. It reinforces the idea that small diet changes 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, ”notes Dr. Sala vila.

The researchers will now try to analyze the same indicators in similar population groups, but of European origin, to find out whether the results obtained can also be transferred outside of the USA. The American Heart Association recommends eating oily fish such as salmon, anchovies, or sardines twice a week for the health benefits of omega-3 acids.

Reference: “Using Red Cell Fatty Acid Fingerprinting to Predict All-round Mortality Risk: The Framingham Offspring Cohort,” by Michael I. McBurney, Nathan L. Tintle, Ramachandran S. Vasan, Aleix Sala-Vila, and William S. Harris, June 16 2021, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
DOI: 10.1093 / ajcn / nqab195


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