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Don’t stint on the fish oils—low levels are as bad as smoking for your life expectancy

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Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for your health and longevity: they reduce your risk of heart disease—but if your levels are too low, your life expectancy will be cut by around five years, as much as if you were a smoker.

Two new studies have underlined the importance of the fatty acids, which are in oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, or from supplements.

When it comes to your heart health, the EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) form is the most effective.  They are most likely to reduce cardiovascular disease and death—and improve survival rates after heart disease—compared to the combined EPA+DHA supplements.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital took another look at 38 studies to discover a big difference between the two types of fatty acids: they have different chemical properties that influence heart health.  The findings build on the Reduce-It trial, which discovered that EPA acids dramatically reduce heart attacks and strokes in people who are at high risk.

And not taking your omega-3 supplements could be as bad for your longevity as smoking.  Cigarettes can take up to five years off your life and having low stores of the fatty acids can trim four years, say researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada.  

They think that higher levels of omega-3 alone account for the greater life expectancy in the Japanese, who typically live five years longer than counterparts in the West—and it could all be down to their diets which are rich in fatty fish.

In a study of 2,240 people in their sixties, the researchers said that levels of omega-3 fatty acids were a reliable predictor of life expectancy over the following 11 years.

(Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2021; 00:1-8)

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