Want to Live Longer? Eat Fish!

Live Longer, Eat Fish!

Written by Alex Reid
Posted April 3, 2013

Eating fish has long been shown as a great way to improve overall health and diet, but did you know a diet high in omega-3 acids (commonly found in fish) may also help you live longer? According to a new study by the Harvard School of Public Health, eating fish may reduce overall mortality risk by more than a quarter in older adults. The results also showed fish consumption lowered death by heart disease by 35%. 

The research was led by Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH, and helped to further what scientists already know about the effects of omega-3 fatty acids.

“Although eating fish has long been considered part of a healthy diet, few studies have assessed blood omega-3 levels and totally deaths in older adults,” said Mozaffarian. “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.”

On average, participants with the highest blood levels of the fatty acids lived 2.2 years longer than those with lower levels.

The study, published April 1st in Annals of Internal Medicine, examined 16 years of data from about 2,700 adults 65 years and older from four U.S. communities in North Carolina, California, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. All of the individuals were healthy at the start of the study with no prevalent history of heart disease, stroke or heart failure. The researchers measured and analyzed three specific omega-3 acids as well as the total proportion of blood omega-3s. After adjusting for demographic, cardiovascular health, lifestyle, and dietary factors, they found that higher levels of all three fatty acids (both combined and individually) were associated with significantly lower rates of morality. In particular, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) was the most strongly related to lower risk of death by coronary heart disease with a 40 percent lower risk. DHA was also associated with a 45 percent lower risk of death due to arrhythmias. The other two types – EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DPA (docosapentaenoic acid) were associated with a lower risk of nonfatal heart attack and stroke death respectively.

One of the most notable factors of this study is that all results were gleaned from individuals eating fish – not just taking supplements, so the results are focused on primary prevention rather than secondary. Fish oil supplements can definitely play a helpful role in improving one's health, but nutrients are almost always better utilized by the body when they are derived from the food itself. In this case: fish. The types of fish highest in these omega-3s include mackerel, tuna, trout, salmon, herring, sardines and anchovies.

Unfortunately, eating fish for three meals a day won't help you live forever because after reaching 400mg per day, blood levels rose much more gradually. However, for those of you not eating any fish regularly, upping your intake to two or more servings of fatty fish per week will give you the biggest 'bang-for-your-buck.'


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