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Eat This, Live Longer?
A new study suggests adults with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood are less likely to die from causes than those with the lowest levels. Omega-3 fatty acids have long been thought to offer protection against a lengthy list of health problems – from premature births to heart disease.
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian led a study that included about 2,700 older Americans, and researchers found people with the most circulating omega-3s in thebloodstream – usually found in oily fishes such as tuna, salmon or sardines – lived about two years longer than those with the lowest levels, on average.
“The vast majority of Americans don’t eat two servings of fish per week. That would be ideal,” Mozaffarian said. Mozaffarian, the study’s lead author is from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, says the findings suggest people should work more oily fish into their diets. But other scientists are not quite convinced.
The new study doesn’t prove omega-3 fatty acids were responsible for keeping people alive, according to Alice Lichtenstein, the director of Tufts University’s Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory in Boston.
“Those people who consume more fish also consumed a higher level of fruit, more vegetables and less red meat. The question is, is it just that they consumed more fish, or is it a dietary pattern?” said Lichtenstein, who was not involved with the new research.
Researchers measured the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in participants’ blood, and then tracked them until 2008 to see how many died from various causes. Overall, 1,625 of the participants had died by the end of the study, the researchers reported Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Mozaffarian and his colleagues found people who had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood at the outset were 27 percent less likely to die for any reason over the course of the study, compared to those with the lowest levels. That worked out to be about two extra years of life after age 65 for people at the high end of the omega-3 fatty acid spectrum. Most of that benefit, according to the researchers, came from a halving of the rate of heart disease deaths among people with high fatty acid levels.