A new study analysed data on blood fatty acid levels in 2,240 people over the age of 65 who were monitored for an average of 11 years. The aim was to find out which fatty acids function as good predictors of mortality.
Having high omega-3 levels is as big as quitting smoking
The results show that four types of fatty acids, including omega-3 and two saturated fatty acids, fulfil this role. The advantage of omega-3 fatty acids is that their levels in the blood can be modified by diet.
“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 5 years. In contrast, being a regular smoker takes 4,7 years off your life expectancy,” said Dr Aleix Sala-Vila, author of the study.
Knowing this, increasing your omega-3 intake might be more meaningful than previously thought.
“What we have found is not insignificant. It reinforces the idea that small changes in diet in the right direction can have a much more powerful effect than we think, and it is never too late or too early to make these changes,” remarks Dr Sala-Vila.
Best sources of omega-3s in food
The American Heart Association recommends eating oily fish such as salmon, anchovies or sardines twice a week to enjoy the benefits of omega-3 acids. Fish and seafood are in fact some of the best sources of omega-3s because they contain their most beneficial forms: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Here is the list of the best sources.
- There are also great plant sources of omega-3s. They only contain ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which needs to be converted into EPA and DHA in your body, but they can be helpful, still. Your best bet are nuts and seeds. Beans such as Edamame and leafy greens such as Brussel sprouts can also be minor sources. Here are the best plant sources of omega-3s.
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
If you don’t include these sources regularly in your diet, you should consider supplementing with fish oil. Make sure to always study the label to learn how many omega-3s a given oil contains. Aim to get 500 mg of EPA and DHA combined each day. This is equivalent to around the same as a 140 g portion of fatty fish per week.