Omega-3 fatty acid levels in the blood are as good a predictor of mortality from any cause as smoking, according to a study conducted at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM). in collaboration with The Fatty Acid Research Institute in the United States. States and several universities in the United States and Canada. The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, used data from a long-term study group, the Framingham Offspring Cohort, which has been monitoring residents of this Massachusetts city in the United States since 1971.
Researchers have found that omega-3 levels in blood erythrocytes (so-called red blood cells) are very good predictors of mortality risk. The study concludes that “Having higher levels of these acids in the blood, as a result of regularly including fatty fish in the diet, increases life expectancy by almost five years,” according to Dr. Aleix Sala-Vila, postdoctoral researcher at IMIM. He points out the research group on cardiovascular risks and nutrition and author of the study. Instead, “Being a regular smoker takes 4.7 years of your life expectancy, just like you earn if you have high levels of omega-3 acids in your blood,” he adds.
2,200 people monitored over eleven years
The study analyzed data on blood fatty acid levels in 2,240 people over the age of 65, which were monitored for an average of eleven years. The aim was to validate which fatty acids function as good predictors of mortality, beyond the factors already known. The results indicate that four types of fatty acids, including omega-3s, play this role. Interestingly, two of them are saturated fatty acids, traditionally associated with cardiovascular risk, but which, in this case, indicate a longer life expectancy. “This reaffirms what we’ve seen lately,” says Dr. Sala-Vila, “not all saturated fatty acids are necessarily bad.” In fact, their levels in the blood cannot be altered by diet, as with omega-3 fatty acids.
These results may contribute to the personalization of dietary recommendations for food intake, depending on the blood concentrations of the different types of fatty acids. “What we have found is not insignificant. It reinforces the idea that small changes in diet in the right direction can have a much more powerful effect than we think and it is never too late or too early to make those changes,” he remarks. Dr. Sala-Vila.
Researchers will now try to analyze the same indicators in similar population groups, but of European origin, to find out if the results obtained can also be applied outside the United States. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies or sardines twice a week because of the health benefits of omega-3 acids.
IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute)
McBurney, MI, et al. (2021) Using an erythrocyte fatty acid fingerprint to predict the risk of all-cause mortality: the Framingham Offspring cohort. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqab195.