Decades-long study ties omega-3s from seafood to healthier aging

Published on
October 25, 2018

A study of over 2,500 adults between 1992 and 2015 has found that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids present in seafood reduce the risk of unhealthy aging. 

The study, published in BMJ, started with adults at an average age of 74 in 1992 and examined the levels of four different omega-3s – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and alpha linolenic acid (ALA) – present in their body. Over the course of the study, participants were surveyed regularly, and in three periods – 1992-1993, 1998-1999, and 2005-2006 – had the omega-3s present in their blood measured. 

The study found, after correcting for other factors such as age, sex, and race, that adults with higher levels of EPA and DPA had a better chance of healthy aging. Participants with the highest level of omega-3s present had an 18 percent lower risk of unhealthy aging. Participants with the highest levels of EPA and DPA, the omega-3s commonly found in seafood, had the best results: Those with high levels of EPA had a 24 percent lower risk of unhealthy aging, and those with DPA had an 18 percent lower risk of unhealthy aging. 

 “We found that older adults who had higher levels of omega 3 from seafood were more likely to live longer and healthier lives,” lead study author Heidi Lai of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston told Reuters. “These findings support current national dietary guidelines to consume more seafood.”

The study also found that levels of DHA from seafood and ALA from plants did not seem to have an impact on whether the participant would age healthily or not. 

“Docosahexaenoic acid from seafood and alpha-linolenic acid from plants were not associated with a lower likelihood of unhealthy ageing,” states the report. 

The report builds on previous findings, which examined omega-3s’ effects on individual components of health such as cognitive function, cancer risk, and heart disease. 

“Our findings build on and expand these previous results by evaluating serial measurements of biomarkers in relation to healthy ageing,” states the report. 

The report goes on to suggest that the findings encourage greater seafood consumption in older adults. Currently, U.S. dietary guidelines indicate adults should eat at least eight ounces of seafood a week. 

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