Live longer with just a little more omega-3’s?

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports some pretty impressive findings.  Using data from a long-term study of residents of Framingham, MA, they looked at lifespan and its association with levels of different fats in the blood.  They followed 2240 people over age 65 for an average of 11 years and here’s the big headline:

A 1% increase in blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids—from consuming more oily fish—was associated with almost 5 years of greater life expectancy.  That is a similar effect as quitting smoking, which adds about 4.7 years to lifespan, on average.

Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising.  We already knew that omega-3 fatty acids are good for heart, brain, skin and reducing inflammation.  Now we can add “delaying all-cause mortality” to their list of potential accomplishments.

How to get higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids?  The most reliable way is to regularly consume cold-water fatty fish.  Hopefully the researchers will soon test whether supplements can provide the same benefit.  Walnuts and flax seed oil can boost levels for those capable of converting plant sources of omega-3’s into the kind our body uses (this is largely based on genetics and age).

"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", said Dr Sala-Vila, one of the authors, as reported by the AAAS’s Eureka Alert.

The American Heart Association recommends eating a serving of oily fish such as Alaska salmon, sardines or anchovies twice a week.  I personally struggle to find these foods appetizing, but after seeing these research findings, I’m sure gonna try!


Michael I McBurney, Nathan L Tintle, Ramachandran S Vasan, Aleix Sala-Vila, William S Harris, Using an erythrocyte fatty acid fingerprint to predict risk of all-cause mortality: the Framingham Offspring Cohort, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2021;, nqab195,