Posted on Jul 25, 2019, 1 p.m.
According to a study published in The BMJ higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood are associated with a higher likelihood of healthy aging among older adults, and support guidelines for increasing consumption of fish among older adults.
As people around the globe are living longer there is a growing focus on healthy aging, which means being able to live your lifespan without major chronic disease while maintaining good physical and mental function.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from seafood and plants are suggested to have beneficial effects that can help to promote healthy aging, but studies have been somewhat inconsistent, as such the team from Tufts University set out to investigate the association between circulating blood levels of n-3 PUFAa and healthy aging among older adults.
2,622 adults who were part of the US Cardiovascular Health study were included in this study, who had an average age of 74 years old; blood levels of n3-PUFAs were measured at baseline, and again at both 6 and 13 years which included EPA, DHA, DPA, and ALA. Subjects were split into 5 groups of circulating blood n-3 PUFA levels from lowest to highest based on these measurements.
89% of the subjects experienced unhealthy aging over the study period based on review of medical records and diagnostic tests, while 11% experienced healthy aging which was defined as being survival free of major chronic diseases and without physical or mental dysfunction.
After making adjustments for a range of social, economic and lifestyle factors levels of seafood derived EPA in the highest quintile was found to be associated with a 24% lower risk of unhealthy aging than those in the lowest quintile; and the top 3 quintiles of DPA levels were associated with an 18% lower risks of healthy aging, while seafood derived DHA and plant derived ALA were not associated with healthy aging.
It was noted that as this was an observational study no firm conclusions can be made on cause/effect, and some of the observed risks may be due to other unmeasured factors.
There was a long follow up period of up to 22 years, results remained largely unchanged after further analysis; based on this the team suggests that among older adults higher levels of circulating n-3 PUFAs from seafood is associated with a lower risk of unhealthy aging.
The team concluded that, "These findings encourage the need for further investigations into plausible biological mechanisms and interventions related to n3-PUFAs for maintenance of healthy ageing, and support guidelines for increased dietary consumption of fish among older adults.”
“We live in challenging times, when lifespans are increasing but healthy lifespans are not. Following the World Health Organization's policy framework for healthy ageing, any evidence-based clues to improve health in later life are welcome but additional efforts to accelerate this area of research are essential," they conclude.
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