Eating oily fish rich in omega-3 – such as salmon or mackerel – could add up to two years to a person’s life, a new report has suggested.
The study found that older adults with higher levels of blood omega-3 may be able to lower their overall mortality risk by as much as 27%, and their mortality risk from heart disease by about 35%. On average subjects with the highest blood levels of fatty acids found in fish lived 2.2 years longer than those with lower levels.
“Our findings support the importance of adequate blood omega-3 levels for cardiovascular health, and suggest that later in life these benefits could actually extend the years of remaining life,” lead author Dariush Mozaffarian said.
“Our findings support the importance of adequate blood omega-3 levels for cardiovascular health, and suggest that later in life these benefits could actually extend the years of remaining life” - Dariush Mozaffarian
Although previous studies have demonstrated the role of fish in reducing the risk of dying from heart disease, researchers say this latest study is the first to illustrate its importance in relation to total mortality.
The study, conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Washington, examined 16 years of data from around 2,700 US adults aged 65 or older. It looked at biomarkers in the blood of people who were not taking fish oil supplements.
Researchers also found that the steepest rise in fatty acid levels in the blood occurred when subjects went from a very low intake of omega-3 fatty acids to around 400mg a day. “The findings suggest that the biggest bang-for-your-buck is for going from no intake to modest intake, or about two servings of fatty fish per week,” said Mozaffarian.
Mike Mitchell, technical director of Young’s Seafood, welcomed the report: “This research shows a possible link between eating oily fish, like salmon and mackerel, and living longer. We welcome scientific research and this study highlights the importance of eating fish regularly.
“There are so many fish options out there and we’d like to encourage people to choose responsibly sourced fish, to help protect our seas, the environment and so that future generations can also enjoy the health benefits of fish.”
Karen Galloway at industry body Seafish said: “This report is further evidence of the health benefits of omega-3, and we welcome the findings. Consumers, such as those taking part in our own Healthy, Happy, Heart research right now, should enjoy a healthy diet, and eating omega-3 rich seafood is an ideal way to reap an abundance of health benefits.”
The NHS recommends that a healthy diet includes at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish, which can include salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout or herring.