It has long been known that changing your lifestyle can bring huge benefits, most notably a longer lifespan. Diet offers robust protection against innumerable diseases, not least against heart disease – the world’s leading cause of death. Now, a new study suggests that modest increases in omega-3 fatty acids can increase your life expectancy by five years.
That is the most important finding of a new study in which the Medical Research Institute (IMIM) of the Hospital del Mar is involved in cooperation with the Fatty Acid Research Institute in the USA and several universities in the USA and Canada.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was based on data from a long-term study group, the Framingham Offspring Cohort, who have been monitoring residents of this Massachusetts town in the United States since 1971.
Researchers found that the levels of omega-3 in blood erythrocytes (called red blood cells) are robust predictors of mortality risk.
The study concludes that “higher levels of these acids in the blood as a result of regular consumption of fatty fish increases life expectancy by almost five years,” explains Dr Risk and Nutrition Research Group and author of the study.
READ MORE: How to Live Longer: The Most Important Food Ingredient for Long Life – Big Study
In contrast, “as a regular smoker, life expectancy is reduced by 4.7 years, just as if you have high levels of omega-3 acids in your blood,” added Doctor Sala-Vila.
To arrive at this judgment, 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.
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A surprising result of the research is that saturated fat – typical predictors of heart disease – are a marker of longer life expectancy.
“This confirms what we have seen lately,” said Doctor Sala-Vila. “Not all saturated fats are necessarily bad”.
Doctor Sala-Vila added: “What we have 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. “
Good sources of omega-3
There are different types of omega-3 fatty acids found in different foods.
According to the cholesterol charity Heart UK, the main ones are:
- ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid)
- ALA is essential to good health, but our bodies cannot make it, so we need to get it from the food we eat. It is mainly found in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds.
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
- We need these types of omega-3 fats for a healthy heart and circulation. Our bodies can make some of these fats from the ALA in food, but only in a small amount. So it’s good to eat foods that already contain them.
“Oily fish like sardines, salmon and mackerel are the best sources of EPA and DHA,” explains Heart UK.
According to the charity, white fish and shellfish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, but in lower amounts.
In order to ensure a sufficient supply of omega-3 fatty acids, you should follow a Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet varies by country and region, so there are a number of definitions.
“But in general, it’s high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, grains, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats like olive oil. It usually involves a low intake of meat and dairy products, ”explains the NHS.
A healthy diet should be complemented by regular physical activity.
“Do at least 150 minutes of medium-intensity activity per week or 75 minutes of high-intensity activity per week,” advises the NHS.
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