Healthy aging with fish omega-3 oils
Looking into the prospect of not only living longer lives (which is a growing trend around the world) but also living these years in good health, the team led by Heidi Lai studied the long term effect on aging of a group of fatty acids called omega-3 (or n3-PUFAs - PolyUnsaturated Fatty Acids) which can be found in oily fish, some seed oils (flax, chia, rapeseed oils are some examples).
To do this, they followed a group of 2,622 older adults who took part of the U.S. Cardiovascular Health Study, over a fourteen year period, from 1992 to 2006.
Healthy aging was defined as surviving into old age (the participants had an average age of 74.4 years) without suffering from chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular, lung or kidney disease, and also maintaining cognitive and physical abilities.
They measured the blood concentrations of n3-PUFAs and found that those subjects who had higher levels of them "were associated with an 18% lower risk... of unhealthy ageing".
Some fatty acids within the omega-3 group impacted more than others on healthy ageing:
- Higher eicosapentaenoic acid (or EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) reduced risk (15% and 16% lower risk respectively)
- Docosahexaenoic acid also known as DHA had no impact
- α-linolenic acid from plants was not associated with adding or reducing risk.
The takehome point seems to be that certain seafood oils (not all of them and not α-linolenic acid from plants) can help you live in better health as you age.
EPA is found in fish such as mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon and cod liver. DPA can be found in Atlantic mackerel, Florida pompano, Pacific herring, sablefish, whitefish, bluefin tuna, and rainbow trout (and also in seal meat and blubber).
Those subjects who ate around two servings of fish each week had the lowest "aging risk".
The healthy omega-3 oils in nuts and seeds did not seem to report advantages to those consuming them, but were not a disadvantage either; Lai reported that "α-linolenic acid from plants was not noticeably associated with unhealthy ageing".
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