12 January - 20 June 2016

Omega 3 fatty acids found in seafood linked to healthy ageing

A study published in the BMJ is reporting that people with the highest blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids were 18 to 21 percent less likely to experience unhealthy aging. Lai et al. define healthy ageing “as living a meaningful lifespan without chronic diseases and with intact physical and mental function.”

A study published in the BMJ is reporting that people with the highest blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids were 18 to 21 percent less likely to experience unhealthy aging. Lai et al. define healthy ageing “as living a meaningful lifespan without chronic diseases and with intact physical and mental function.”

Previous research has indicated that omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, from seafood and plants, could promote aspects of healthy ageing, with increase amounts associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, fatal coronary heart disease, but a higher risk of prostate cancer. 

The study involved 2,622 adults who were taking part in the US Cardiovascular Health study from 1992 to 2015.  The mean average age was 74.4 years, with 63.4% of the participants being women and 10.8% from non-white groups. At baseline and then at 6 years and 13 years the researchers measured blood levels of omega 3. These included eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Using the findings from a food frequency questionnaire, Lai et al report that the main dietary sources of EPA, DHA and DPA come from seafood, while ALA is found mainly in plants (nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables).  The participants were split into five groups based on their circulating blood n-3 PUFA levels, from lowest to highest.

The scientists report that those who consumed higher long chain n3-PUFAs levels were more likely to be female, white, more educated, have a higher income and a healthier lifestyle.  Those in the highest group consumed about one additional weekly serving of fish, compared with the lowest group. Those who consumed higher α-linolenic acid levels were found to be high school graduates, with a lower income, consume more alcohol, have a lower body mass index and have lower C-reactive protein levels.  Over the study period, the researchers found that 89% of the participants experienced unhealthy ageing, while 11% experienced healthy ageing. Those in the highest consumption group had an 18% lower risk of unhealthy ageing.  However when the researchers evaluated the n3-PUFAs separately they found that those who had higher levels of EPA or DPA had a 24% and 18% lower risk of unhealthy ageing respectively, compared to those in the lowest group.  However they report that seafood-derived DHA and plant derived ALA were not associated with healthy ageing.

Lai et al discuss their findings noting that n3-PUFAs have been found in “human trials to show favourable effects on blood pressure, endothelial function, plasma triglycerides, heart rate and potentially inflammation.” They note that although they found “little evidence for association of α-linoleic acid levels with health ageing” this could be because “plasma phospholipid α-linoleic acid may also not reflect dietary intake well, give its rapid oxidation.” Exploratory analysis has reported an association between α-linoleic and “disease free healthy ageing, as well as an interaction with age.” In conclusion they state “these findings encourage the need for further investigations into plausible biological mechanism and interventions related to n3-PUFAs for maintenance of healthy ageing and support guidelines for increased dietary consumption of fish among older adults.”

RSSL's Lipids Laboratory, part of the Investigative Analysis Team has expertise in all aspects of fat analysis and fatty acid profiling, including the determination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

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