A new study from the Framingham Offspring Cohort, which has been monitoring the residents of a Massachusetts town since 1971, suggests that omega-3 levels in blood erythrocytes are a strong mortality risk predictor.
Omega-3 and Life Expectancy
Levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood are as good a predictor of mortality from any cause as smoking, according to a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study used data from a long-term study group, the Framingham Offspring Cohort, which has been monitoring residents of this Massachusetts town, in the United States, since 1971.
The study analysed data on blood fatty acid levels in nearly 2300 people over the age of 65, who were monitored for an average of eleven years. The aim was to investigate which fatty acids function as good predictors of mortality, beyond the already known factors.
Interestingly, the results noted that four types of fatty acid, including omega-3, fitted the bill, two of which were saturated fatty acids. Although saturated fats have traditionally been associated with cardiovascular risk, new research is suggesting otherwise.
“This reaffirms what we have been seeing lately,” says Dr Sala-Vila, one of the lead researchers. “Not all saturated fatty acids are necessarily bad.” Indeed, their levels in the blood cannot be modified by diet, as happens with omega-3 fatty acids.
The study concludes that “Having higher levels of these acids in the blood, as a result of regularly including oily fish in the diet, increases life expectancy by almost five years,” as Dr. Aleix Sala-Vila, a postdoctoral researcher in the IMIM’s Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group and author of the study, points out. In contrast, “Being a regular smoker takes 4.7 years off your life expectancy, the same as you gain if you have high levels of omega-3 acids in your blood,” he adds.
It is suggested that the results may contribute to the personalisation of dietary recommendations for food intake, based 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 these changes,” remarks Dr Sala-Vila.
The researchers will now try to analyse 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 oily fish such as salmon, anchovies or sardines twice a week because of the health benefits of omega-3 acids.
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Unfortunately, the average diet in the developed world has too little omega-3 in it and too much omega-6. New research is revealing just how bad this imbalance can be.
In an article we reported on a study at the University of Texas Health Science Centre at San Antonio which showed that high consumption of omega-6, especially in the form of processed seed and vegetable oils, can increase the risk of chronic pain and inflammation, which may in turn lead to conditions like diabetes and obesity.
The study notes:
“Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide1 and is commonly associated with comorbid disorders2. However, the role of diet in chronic pain is poorly understood. Of particular interest is the Western-style diet, enriched with ω-6 (Omega-6) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that accumulate in membrane phospholipids and oxidise into pronociceptive oxylipins. Here we report that mice administered an ω-6 PUFA-enriched diet develop persistent nociceptive hypersensitivities, spontaneously active and hyper-responsive glabrous afferent fibres and histologic markers of peripheral nerve damage reminiscent of a peripheral neuropathy…
Collectively, these data reveal dietary enrichment with ω-6 PUFAs as a new aetiology of peripheral neuropathy and risk factor for chronic pain and implicate multiple therapeutic considerations for clinical pain management.”
A recent study revealed that soybean oil, the most widely consumed oil in the United States, was responsible for genetic damage in mice, which led to weight gain and serious neurological problems. Some have even speculated that increasing soybean oil consumption may be responsible for increasing social tensions in the US.
In another study, discussed in this article on why you should eat butter, three groups of mice were fed different kinds of fat. Two groups of mice were given different amounts of linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid that makes up a large percentage of soya, maize and sunflower oils. A third group was put on a diet with a high content of omega-6 that also contained a certain amount of marine omega-3. The results showed that the group given the diet with the most omega-6 ate more and gained considerably more weight than the group on the low-omega-6 diet.
Omega 6 is converted by the body into endocannabinoids, which are part of the signalling system involved in controlling appetite. The more of these endocannabinoids in the body, the more hungry we feel, meaning we eat more; crucially, we also store more of the food we eat in the form of fat.
This is actually a pufferfish, not a fat fish
The endocannabinoid system was recently implicated in a study on how the endocrine-disruptor BPA makes fish fat. The researchers found that exposure to BPA and TBBPA, a similar compound, at concentrations common in the environment was enough to induce hyperphagia (overeating) in zebra fish and to cause them to develop fatty liver disease.
After genetic analysis, the researchers concluded that the chemicals were having these effects through activating the CB1 cannabinoid gene.
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