While modern medicine has been able to successfully extend people’s lifespan, research is continually showing nutritional choices are more responsible for whether those people have an extended healthspan. That fact was reinforced again with the results of an observational study just released that showed increased levels of omega 3 fatty acids from seafood are linked to healthy aging.
Researchers at Tufts University in Boston looking to build on previous studies touting the benefits of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) wanted to find out if omega 3s might contribute to healthy aging, which they defined as survival free of major chronic diseases and without mental or physical dysfunction.
They conducted a study with more than 2,600 participants over a span of 13 years and found volunteers with the highest levels omega 3 circulating in their blood were at a 24 percent lower risk of unhealthy aging compared to those with the lowest levels.
The average age of study participants at the beginning was 74 years and there were slightly more women than men. The blood levels of n-3 PUFAs were measured initially and then again at the six and 13-year marks. Researchers were concerned with levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), DPA (docosapentaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha linolenic acid). The most common dietary source of EPA, DHA and DPA is seafood, while ALA comes from nuts, seeds and leafy-green vegetables.
Volunteers were divided into five groups based on their level of circulating omega 3s from lowest to highest and their health was tracked during the study period. Surprising, 89% experienced what they consider unhealthy aging. So while they lived a long time they had to deal with chronic conditions.
However, researchers found the higher the level of circulating omega 3s, the lower the risk for unhealthy aging among those participants. Those with the highest levels of EPA had a 24 percent lower risk for unhealthy aging, while the top three groups in terms of DPA levels had an 18-21 percent reduction in the risk of unhealthy aging. DHA and ALA levels did not appear to have an impact.
Researchers theorize the reason for the positive effects of n-3 PUFAs on health is their ability to help regulate blood pressure, heart rate and inflammation.
Researchers said there were no firm conclusions to be drawn about cause and effect since it was an observational study. They said there’s a possibility other factors they did not measure had an impact but they are hoping further study will reveal more about the biological mechanisms that are affected by n-3 PUFAs.