General Health Wednesday April 24, 2013

Fishy findings - can eating oily fish prolong our life expectancy?

It is an established fact that eating oily fish is good for you. It provides the body with much needed omega-3 fatty acids, something of which the body cannot produce itself, but which has been linked to better neurological health. Nutritionists recommend we eat at least two portions of oily fish a week (around 140g is classed as one portion); yet recent surveys suggest that nine out of ten children and two-thirds of adults in Britain never eat it.

The significance of making sure fish is included within your diet has been heightened however, with a new study being published, investigating the link between the lack of eating oily fish and premature death.

The study

This is the first study to monitor levels of fish consumption, linking them with death rates and the results have been startling. Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Washington found that adults aged 65 with high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids cut their risk of dying prematurely by a quarter. They also discovered that the risk of dying from heart disease was reduced by a third, compared with adults who had lower blood levels of fatty acids, and participants with the highest levels of all three types of fatty acids had a 27 per cent lower risk of death from all causes.

Lead author Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH, said: “Although eating fish has long been considered part of a healthy diet, few studies have assessed blood omega-3 levels and total deaths in older adults.”

Professor Mozaffarian added: “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.”

Why is eating oily fish good for you?

Omega 3 fatty acids have always been a highly important aspect of a balanced diet as they contain key nutrients that can help prevent the development of life threatening illnesses as well as increasing brain cell activity, to help improve concentration and decrease the chances of developing Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

It is recommended we eat two-to-three portions of oily fish each week as the essential fatty acids can help reduce cardiac deaths as well as reducing the risk of heart disease, strokes and cancer. These essential acids can also help manage cystic fibrosis, asthma and fight against depression and can even reduce the risk of breast cancer dramatically.

Fish provides omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for brain development and which are also thought to reduce inflammation of the brain, cardiovascular system and other cells.

What fish are the best to eat?

There are several different types of fish that are known to be high in omega 3 fatty acids. Tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies are all examples of this. However be aware that some fish have higher levels of mercury, PCB’s and other toxins which include swordfish, tilefish and shark. Pregnant women and children should avoid these fish entirely. Farm raised fish may also have higher levels of contaminants so where possible check the provenance of the fish you are purchasing. Free range poultry and beef are also known to contain higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids than typical grain fed animals.

However, if you are a vegetarian or simply do not like fish, fish oil or algae oil supplements offer a great alternative but be sure to consult your doctor before taking these supplements.

Ultimately, the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids are second-to-none so make sure you are getting enough of this important fatty acid to live a healthy lifestyle and reduce the risk of developing severe health problems.

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