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Can Omega-3 rich foods really increase life expectancy? We find out

Here’s what you need to know about adding Omega-3 food to your system. The various health benefits of a diet rich in omega-3 have already been widely publicised. A new study suggests that these fatty acids could also add almost five years of life to a person.

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has established a link between omega-3 fatty acids and life expectancy, concluding that the presence of high levels of omega-3 in the blood may predict a lower mortality rate in people over 65.

For their research, the scientists analysed the levels of omega-3 in the blood of 2,240 volunteers, aged at least 65 years. The data was collected over 11 years, thanks to the patients’ medical monitoring. Of this panel, 57% were women and 43% were men. During the study period, 384 participants died.

omega-3
Image credit: Unsplash/Caroline Attwood

On average, participants with higher levels of these fatty acids lived 4.7 years longer than those without. These extra years of life expectancy, however, were cancelled out in regular smokers. The researchers noted an equivalence between smokers who had a high level of omega-3 in their blood and non-smokers who had a low level of fatty acids. “Being a regular smoker takes 4.7 years off your life expectancy, the same as you gain if you have high levels of omega-3 acids in your blood,” explained Dr Aleix Sala-Vila, who worked on the study.

A good level of fatty acid in the blood is around 8% or higher, while a low level is around 3%. “It is interesting to note that in Japan, where the mean Omega-3 Index is greater than 8%, the expected life span is around five years longer than it is in the United States, where the mean Omega-3 Index is about 5%, explains lead researcher Dr Michael McBurney. “Hence, in practice, dietary choices that change the Omega-3 Index may prolong life.”

What are good sources of omega-3s?

Some foods are richer in omega-3 than others. To help the body assimilate them, it is advisable to consume omega-3 of animal origin. Herring, sardines, tuna and salmon are excellent candidates for providing a daily intake. Flax or rapeseed oil is also rich in omega-3. With a lower content, but easier to incorporate into the diet, green vegetables are a good alternative. As always, the key is to vary your diet.