A recently published nutrition study set out to answer a bold question; is omega-3 fatty acid intake related to life expectancy? The complexity of answering straight-forward questions about food intake and chronic disease or death is, well…complex.
With multiple variables at play in the determination of how long a human may live, it’s important to keep in mind that factors outside of diet alone do matter. Lifestyle choices such as exercise habits, smoking, drinking and sleep patterns all play a role in the overall health of an individual. However, diet plays an undeniably massive role in your health and while you work on your non-diet health habits, we’re here to break down the latest nutrition data.
First, let’s start with the basics: what are omega-3 fatty acids? There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Alpha-linolenic acid can be found in commonly used plant oils like flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils. Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid are often found in fish and seafood.1 Omega-3 fatty acids comprise the membranes of cells in your body and, unfortunately, cannot be made by the body on its own. For this reason, we call omega-3 fatty acids essential fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids have multiple health benefits but are best known for their cardiovascular protection. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids are tied to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, blood clots, and inflammation. They support the lining of the arteries to keep them shiny and smooth (yes, that is a Persona-declared scientific statement). But really, they do!2
The new omega-3 fatty acid study summary published in Science Daily concluded that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood can increase life expectancy by roughly five years. According to the summary, “Researchers have found that omega-3 levels in blood erythrocytes are very good mortality risk predictors. The study used data from a long-term study group … and concludes that, ‘Having higher levels of these acids in the blood, as a result of regularly including oily fish in the diet, increases life expectancy by almost five years.”3
In a nutshell, omega-3 levels found in red blood cells are great predictors of mortality risk. Dr. Aleix Sala-Vila, author of the study, also notes that smoking takes about 4.7 years off life expectancy, which is the gain of life expectancy if your blood contains high levels of omega-3’s.
This new study monitored 2,240 people over the age of 65 for an average of eleven years, which indicates a high-quality study with plenty of data points. Dr. Sala-Vila wants to encourage the population that “it is never too late or too early to make these [dietary] changes”.3
How you can improve your diet
Adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet is easy (we really mean it!). The American Heart Association recommends eating oily fish such as salmon, anchovies, or sardines twice per week.3 If salmon, anchovies, or sardines aren’t your thing, here is a list of alternative foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, including vegan options4:
- Omega-3 fortified eggs
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Green leafy vegetables
Courtney is Persona’s Vice President of Nutrition. Courtney hails from Bastyr University, having extensive knowledge of holistic healing and whole foods. Prior to joining Persona, she worked as a wellness coach and nutrition consultant, helping people succeed in their various health endeavors.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal, or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.