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Nutrition, Vitamins & Supplements for Seniors

Senior Citizens Live Years Longer by Consuming Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Fish

Risk of dying from heart disease significantly lowered: Seniors with highest blood levels of the fatty acids lived 2.2 years longer

April 2, 2013 – Older adults age 65 and up who have higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found almost exclusively in fatty fish and seafood, may be able to lower their overall mortality risk by as much as 27% and their mortality risk from heart disease by about 35%, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the University of Washington.

Researchers found that older adults who had the highest blood levels of the fatty acids found in fish lived, on average, 2.2 years longer than those with lower levels.

“Although eating fish has long been considered part of a healthy diet, few studies have assessed blood omega-3 levels and total deaths in older adults,” said lead author Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH.

“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.”

The study—the first to look at how objectively measured blood biomarkers of fish consumption relate to total mortality and specific causes of mortality in a general population—appears online April 1, 2013 in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Previous studies have found that fish, which is rich in protein and heart-healthy fatty acids, reduces the risk of dying from heart disease. But the effect on other causes of death or on total mortality has been unclear.

 

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More links to archived reports on fish oil below news story.


Read more on Nutrition, Vitamins & Supplements

 

With this new study, the researchers sought to paint a clearer picture by examining biomarkers in the blood of adults not taking fish oil supplements, in order to provide the best assessments of the potential effects of dietary consumption of fish on multiple causes of death.

The researchers examined 16 years of data from about 2,700 U.S. adults aged 65 or older who participated in the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), a long-term study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Participants came from four U.S. communities in North Carolina, California, Maryland, and Pennsylvania; and all were generally healthy at baseline. At baseline and regularly during follow-up, participants had blood drawn, underwent physical examinations and diagnostic testing, and were questioned about their health status, medical history, and lifestyle.

The researchers analyzed the total proportion of blood omega-3 fatty acids, including three specific ones, in participants’ blood samples at baseline. After adjusting for demographic, cardiovascular, lifestyle, and dietary factors, they found that the three fatty acids - both individually and combined - were associated with a significantly lower risk of mortality.

One type in particular - docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA - was most strongly related to lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) death (40% lower risk), especially CHD death due to arrhythmias (electrical disturbances of the heart rhythm) (45% lower risk).

Of the other blood fatty acids measured - eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) - DPA was most strongly associated with lower risk of stroke death. EPA was most strongly linked with lower risk of nonfatal heart attack. None of these fatty acids were strongly related to other, noncardiovascular causes of death.

Overall, study participants with the highest levels of all three types of fatty acids had a 27% lower risk of total mortality due to all causes.

When the researchers looked at how dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids related to blood levels, the steepest rise in blood levels occurred when going from very low intake to about 400 mg per day; blood levels rose much more gradually thereafter.

“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.

Support for the study came from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health (R01-HL-085710).

“Plasma Phospholipid Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Older Adults,” Dariush Mozaffarian, Rozenn N. Lemaitre, Irena B. King, Xiaoling Song, Hongyan Huang, Molin Wang, Frank M. Sacks, Eric B. Rimm, and David S. Siscovick, Annals of Internal Medicine, online April 1, 2013

Notes:

Harvard School of Public Health (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu) is dedicated to advancing the public’s health through learning, discovery, and communication. For more information on the school visit: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu

HSPH on Twitter:http://twitter.com/HarvardHSPH
HSPH on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/harvardpublichealth
HSPH on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/HarvardPublicHealth
HSPH home page: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu

More Links to Archived Stories about Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Eating Oily Fish Weekly Defends Against Stroke; Supplements Less Effective

Results from use of long chain omega 3 fatty acid came from 38 studies involving nearly 800,000 individuals in 15 countries

Oct. 31, 2012

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Does Not  Lower Risk of Major Cardiovascular Disease Events

‘Our findings do not justify the use of omega-3 as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice’ for cardiovascular protection, says large review of published studies

Sept. 11, 2011

Cognitive Decline in Seniors Not Slowed by Omega-3 Fish Oil in Short Term

But researchers say longer term effects of omega-3 on cognitive decline and dementia need to be explored; urge seniors continue eating fish regularly

July 10, 2012

Seniors May Find Relief for Spine Damage with Omega-3, Curry Spice Diet

Diet minimized disease-related changes and repaired damage to the spinal cord of UCLA lab rats – preserved walking - June 26, 2012

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Fish Oil Lowers Inflammation in Overweight Older People

New study adds another check mark for fish oil as an effective defender against illness

June 20, 2012

Aging Brains May Stay Sharp, Avoid Shrinkage, Alzheimer's with Proper Diet

Good choices Bs, C, D, E & omega 3; also diets high in trans fats more likely to produce brain shrinkage, lower scores on thinking, memory

Jan. 4, 2012

Eating Baked, Broiled Fish Wards Off Cognitive Decline, Alzheimer’s Disease

Senior citizens  nearing danger zone of cognitive problems should eat fish weekly

Dec. 6, 2011

Fish Oil Supplements Appear to Help Older People Think Better, Save Brains

There was clear association between fish oil supplements and brain volume

Aug. 17, 2011

Omega-3 Fish Oil Does Not Slow Cognitive or Functional Decline in Alzheimer's Disease

New study indicates DHA supplement not useful for those with mild to moderate AD - watch JAMA video - Nov. 3, 2010


My Aching Knees Seemed to Be Cured by Omega-3, New Study Says It May Be True

UK researchers find omega-3 fatty acids slow down osteoarthritis, at least in guinea pigs; I think it worked for me!

By Tucker Sutherland, editor, SeniorJournal.com

Tucker Sutherland, editor, SeniorJournal.comOct. 17, 2011 – As an active – well very active – tennis player for many years, when I turned 70 I was worried my playing days might end due to my aching knees. I never took the court without wearing the latest in knee protection devices. Then, shortly after I increased my daily regimen of fish oil pills, the knee pain disappeared. I was convinced my joints were now better “oiled.” New research says there may be something to this. Read more...


Related Archive Stories

A number of studies have now linked Omega-3 with reducing the risk of AMD - major cause of blindness in senior citizens

Women Reduce Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration With Fish, Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Women who ate the most fish did the best at reducing the risk of this leading cause of blindness in senior citizens - March 15, 2011

Fish Oil Supplements Appear to Help Older People Think Better, Save Brains

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High Level of Omega-3 in Blood of Older Men Hikes Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer

Study leader says beneficial effects of eating fish to prevent heart disease still outweigh any harm related to prostate cancer risk - April 25, 2011


Women Reduce Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration With Fish, Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Women who ate the most fish did the best at reducing the risk of this leading cause of blindness in senior citizens

March 15, 2011


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