Eating fish boosts chances of healthy aging, study says

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Seafood lovers can rejoice as a study has suggested that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in seafood were associated with a greater chance of healthy aging.

"There had been studies that looked at the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and individual components of healthy aging, but not in combination," said postdoctoral fellow at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Heidi Lai, who co-authored the study as recently quoted by Time.

The study examined more than 2,600 older adults, who were also participating in the United States cardiovascular health study. All individuals were diagnosed as being healthy at the beginning of the study and were of the average age of 74. When the study began, blood samples were taken from participants to measure 46 different types of omega-3 fatty acids. The study lasted 25 years and was conducted per clinic visit, which required participants to answer detailed dietary questionnaires.

Researchers focused on healthy aging, which they defined as the ability to live into old age without chronic conditions such as heart disease, dementia, cancer, or death after age 65 without any of these conditions.

However, the study did not take longevity into account. "People nowadays are living longer, but they are not necessarily in good health." Law said. "No one really wants to live a long life and spend most of their late life burdened with disease."

At the end of the 25-year period, only 11 per cent of the participants met the study's definition of healthy aging. When comparing participants with lower blood levels of omega-3s, those with the highest levels had an 18 per cent lower risk of unhealthy aging.

Researchers found that the most significant reductions in unhealthy aging risks were associated with omega-3 fatty acids from seafood -- fats that have also been linked to improvements in cardiovascular and cognitive health.

Fats sourced from seafood reacts differently to processes in the human body when compared to fats in plant sources such as walnuts and flaxseed, Law said. She did not elaborate further on whether or not omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources could be used to replace those found in seafood.

The new study had only been observational; therefore it could not prove cause and effect, according to Time. There were however, other findings focused on the health benefits of seafood -- it was still highly encouraged that fish should be part of a healthy, balanced diet.