Not eating oily fish regularly can shorten life expectancy more than smoking, study reveals 


Not eating oily fish regularly can shorten life expectancy more than smoking, study reveals

  • Lack of omega-3 in the diet can short life even more than smoking, research says
  • Scientists found low levels of the fatty acid could reduce expectancy by 5 years
  • The oil found in oily fish is known to be good for heart and reduces blood clots 
  • A good level is 8% or higher, while intermediate is between 4% and 8%

A lack of omega-3 oil in the diet can shorten life even more than smoking, new research warns. 

Scientists found that smoking knocked four years off life expectancy whereas low levels of the fatty acid — found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel — could reduce it by five years. 

The oil is known to be good for the heart and reduces blood clots. 

A good level is eight per cent or higher, intermediate is between four and eight per cent and low is four per cent and below. 

Study lead researcher Dr Michael McBurney, of the University of Guelph in Canada, said: ‘It is interesting to note that in Japan, where the mean Omega-3 Index is greater than eight per cent, the expected life span is around five years longer than it is in the United States, where the mean Omega-3 Index is about five per cent. 

‘Hence, in practice, dietary choices that change the Omega-3 Index may prolong life. 

Scientists found that smoking knocked four years off life expectancy whereas low levels of omega-3, a fatty acid found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel (pictured), could reduce it by five years

‘In the final combined model, smoking and the Omega-3 Index seem to be the most easily modified risk factors. 

‘Being a current smoker, at age 65, is predicted to subtract more than four years of life, compared with not smoking, a life shortening equivalent to having a low vs. a high Omega-3 Index.’ 

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, used statistics from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), one of the longest running studies in the world. 

The FHS provided unique insights into cardiovascular disease risk factors and led to the development of the Framingham Risk Score based on eight baseline standard risk factors — age, sex, smoking, hypertension treatment, diabetes status, systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol (TC), and HDL cholesterol. 

Researchers in the study found that measuring fatty acids could predict mortality similarly to standard risk factors. 

Co-author Dr Bill Harris, President of the Fatty Acid Research Institute, said: ‘The information carried in the concentrations of four red blood cell fatty acids was as useful as that carried in lipid levels, blood pressure, smoking, and diabetic status with regard to predicting total mortality. 

The oil is known to be good for the heart and reduces blood clots. A good level is eight per cent or higher, intermediate is between four and eight per cent and low is four per cent and below (pictured: some sources of omega-3 acids, file photo)

The oil is known to be good for the heart and reduces blood clots. A good level is eight per cent or higher, intermediate is between four and eight per cent and low is four per cent and below (pictured: some sources of omega-3 acids, file photo)

‘This speaks to the power of the Omega-3 Index as a risk factor and should be considered just as important as the other established risk factors, and maybe even more so.’ 

Risk can be reduced by changing factors like diet, tobacco, alcohol and physical inactivity. 

Researchers in the study discovered lifestyle choices could help identify those at risk. 

It could also be useful to prevent ill health, delay death and do treatment approach assessments. 

A previous 2018 report of 2,500 participants in the Framingham Offspring Cohort found individuals with a high Omega-3 Index were 33 per cent less likely to die. 

Similar connections have been found in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, Heart and Soul study and the Ludwigshafen Risk and Cardiovascular Health Study.   

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