Regular fish oil intake associated with reduced cardiovascular disease
Readers of Life Extension Magazine® seek validated methods to extend their healthy lifespans.
Overlooked is compelling evidence showing that higher levels of omega-3s in humans correlate with longer life.
This article summarizes research demonstrating multi-year overall longevity outcomes based on omega-3 blood levels.
Beyond Heart Health
Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that primarily include EPA ( eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA ( docosahexaenoic acid).
Studies support higher intake of omega-3s for the prevention and management of cardiovascular conditions. Regular omega-3 intake can lower risk of heart attack and stroke and reduce mortality from heart disease.
The pharmaceutical industry has even created fish oil-derived drugs for reducing cardiovascular risks. These drugs, such as Lovaza®, and Vascepa®, are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce risk of cardiovascular events.
Fish Consumption and Lifespan
A decade ago, a 16-year study concluded that a fish-rich diet significantly predicts longevity.
Data on 2,692 senior adults showed that subjects with high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had:
- 2.2 years of longer lifespan,
- 27% decrease in overall mortality risk, and
- 35% decrease in heart disease mortality risk.
The omega-3 DHA was associated with a 40% reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease death and substantially reduced mortality risk from arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
In 2021, a massive study evaluated 191,558 individuals’ data and concluded that weekly intake of 175 grams (two servings) of oily fish was associated with:
- Lower risk of death among patients with previous cardiovascular disease,
- Lower risk of death from major cardiovascular disease, and
- Lower risk of sudden cardiac death.
Longevity Benefits for High-Risk Patients
These and other findings prompted studies on intake of fish oil.
A prospective study assessed fish oil intake and mortality among people with cardiometabolic multimorbidity. This refers to having at least two of the chronic diseases, diabetes, stroke, or heart disease, which translates to exponentially higher mortality risk. Fish oil use by these patients was associated with a 17% lower risk of all-cause mortality. Cardiovascular disease mortality risk was also reduced.
Taking fish oil at age 45 was associated with adding 1.66 years to life expectancy.
Longevity Benefits in the General Population
A second study using the UK Biobank cohort examined a whopping 502,536 volunteers aged 40-69 who live in the United Kingdom.
Analysis showed that regular fish oil intake was associated with significantly reduced:
- All-cause mortality,
- Cardiovascular disease mortality,
- Heart attack incidence, and
- Cardiovascular events.
These associations were independent of numerous risk factors, including sex, age, ethnicity, body mass index, produce consumption, smoking, alcohol use, exercise, and various comorbidities. Amazingly, even cold-water fish consumption didn’t change the benefits found for fish oil supplements to these outcomes.
Another, earlier study looked at associations between higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and mortality, using data from the Framingham Heart Study, one of the world’s longest-running human studies.
Those with the highest omega-3 blood levels, compared to the lowest, had an astonishing 34% lower risk of death from any cause.
Lifespan Increase in Laboratory Model
Beyond the human lifespan studies discussed so far, laboratory researchers are discovering even greater longevity effects of omega-3s. For over a century, researchers have used the fruit fly to study aging biology. This fly has a short lifespan, so that effects can be observed in a fairly short amount of time, plus its genome is 60% identical to humans.
Scientists used the fruit fly in a study of the lifespan effects of omega-3 intake. Adding EPA and DHA to the flies’ diets increased their median lifespan by 14.6%.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
A New Form of Longevity-Promoting Fish Oil
- The heart benefits of fish oil are well-established, and recent studies provide compelling evidence of fish oil’s potent longevity effects.
- Human data reveal that higher intake of fish or fish oil may add years to lifespan.
- An animal model showed that EPA and DHA supplementation increased lifespan by 14.6%. That same percentage applied to humans would mean 11.5 years additional survival.
- One recent study estimates that a dietary lack of omega-3 oil may shorten lifespan as much as smoking.
- Innovative technology has allowed scientists to pack high amounts of fish oil into sugar-free, chewable forms for an alternative way to promote longer life.
If the average human lifespan were extended by a similar percentage, that would be an additional 11.5 years of life.
This study shows that in a widely studied model organism, fish oil supplementation resulted in a marked longevity increase. This type of controlled intervention data in a time-tested biological model adds weight to the case, based on population data, for an enhancement of longevity from fish oil supplements.
BROAD BENEFITS OF FISH OIL
Recent data offer strong indications that the benefits of higher fish oil and omega-3 fatty acid intake go beyond improving longevity and heart health.
- High omega-3 intake in midlife was found to maintain brain white matter integrity in old age.
- Omega-3 lowered postpartum symptoms of depression compared to placebo.
- Omega-3 significantly improved depression symptoms in pregnant and post-partum women.
- Omega-3 supplementation decreased fasting blood glucose as well as insulin resistance, compared to placebo.
- Fish oil or oily fish intake was associated with a lower risk of type II diabetes.
- Omega-3 intake promoted muscle mass and strength in older adults.
- There is emerging evidence for beneficial effects of omega-3 fats in this muscle-wasting disease.
A Fish Oil-Longevity Explanation
One researcher has investigated possible explanations for this fish oil-longevity association by examining the role of bioactive lipids – a group that includes EPA and DHA – in age-related disease.
This review noted that the body derives several healthy fats, including EPA and DHA, from dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid found most abundantly in plant foods. Alpha-linolenic acid is converted to EPA/DHA in the body by the action of enzymes known as desaturases.
Desaturase activity declines with age. As a result, aging cells can become deficient in various bioactive lipids, including EPA and DHA, potentially contributing to aging and metabolic abnormalities.
This scientist concluded that direct oral intake of bioactive lipids such as EPA and DHA may aid “in the prevention, postponing, or even reversing of some of the aspects of aging.
A Low Fish Oil Intake Shortens Life Similar to Smoking
How much impact might fish oil have on lifespan?
A recent study analyzed Framingham Heart Study data for individuals in their mid-sixties and concluded that:
- Smoking was associated with a life expectancy reduction of 4.73 years, while
- The lowest body levels of omega 3, compared to the highest, were associated with a life expectancy reduction of 4.74 years.
In other words, for people in their 60s, low levels of omega-3s are as much of a risk for early mortality as smoking, based on these data.
Alternative to Softgels
Seeking ways to improve compliance with fish oil intake recommendations, Norwegian scientists spent 10 years developing a new option for those who don’t like softgels or capsules.
They created a water and protein matrix containing tiny droplets of fish oil, allowing for a higher nutrient load in a smaller space. The result is a “gummy bite” that is small, tasty and sugar-free.
The smaller droplets also provide more surface area, enhancing breakdown by digestive enzymes in the body. For those who don’t like to swallow capsules, this innovative technology packs high-dose fish oil into gummy bites.
WHAT’S BEHIND THE FISH OIL-LONGEVITY LINK
Scientists are still exploring how higher fish oil intake may lead to greater longevity. Emerging research provides a glimpse into at least some of the possible connections:
- A healthy level of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce and help resolve chronic inflammation. This helps lower the risk for most age-related – and potentially life-shortening – chronic diseases, including cancer, obesity, diabetes, and dementia.
- A study of patients with chronic kidney disease found that omega-3 intake resulted in longer telomeres within white blood cells. Telomeres are the longevity-associated chromosomal “clocks” that shorten as we age.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are precursors of signaling compounds known as endocannabinoids. The endocannabinoid system is involved in regulation of appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory.
- Blood levels of DHA and total omega-3 fatty acids have been found to be significantly correlated, in middle-aged and elderly women, with diversity in the gut microbiome, the intestinal community of microbes. Greater diversity is nearly always associated with greater disease resistance and better health.
Higher fish oil intake has long been shown to prevent and manage cardiovascular conditions. Recent evidence links higher fish or fish oil intake, and higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids from fish, with increased longevity as well.
The highest omega-3 blood levels were linked to a 34% lower risk of death from any cause.
Innovative technology has been used to produce a tasty, sugar-free, tropical fruit-flavored, gummy-bite form of fish oil for those who don’t like swallowing softgels.
HOW CAN YOU TEST OMEGA-3 LEVELS?
The best way to know if you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids is to test your blood levels. The Omega-3 Index is a finger-stick blood test that can measure the percentage of omega-3 fatty acids in your red blood cells.
Ideally, your Omega-3 Index score should be greater than 6.8%. The typical Japanese Omega-3 Index score is above8.0%, which may help account in part for the five-year longer life expectancy in Japan compared to the United States.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.