Healthy aging reflects not just overall years, but rather “a meaningful lifespan without chronic diseases”
Data is unclear as to whether omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n3-PUFAs) from seafood and plants are associated with healthy aging
Studies are often based on self-reporting rather than objective biomarker levels
Lai et al. (BMJ, 2018) assessed the association between serial biomarker measures of circulating n3-PUFA levels and healthy aging
Prospective cohort study
Cardiovascular Health Study
Multicenter prospective cohort of older adults in the United States
Healthy aging was defined as
Survival without chronic diseases (i.e., cardiovascular disease, cancer, lung disease, and severe chronic kidney disease)
The absence of cognitive and physical dysfunction, or death from other causes not part of the healthy aging outcome after age 65
Cumulative levels of plasma phospholipid n3-PUFAs were measured using gas chromatography
Levels were expressed as percentage of total fatty acids
Measurements were taken 3 times between 1992 and 2006
Forty six plasma phospholipid n3-PUFA levels were measured
Other risk factors were also collected, e.g., sociodemographic information, lipid levels, personal and family medical history, exposures to smoking, alcohol etc.
Correlations between dietary fish intake and n3-PUFA biomarkers at baseline were evaluated in a previous publication
Association between time-varying n3-PUFA levels, and the likelihood of unhealthy aging
5201 ambulatory adults who were living independently and were not under active treatment for cancer were recruited
Mean age: 74.4 years
63.4% were women
10.8% were from non-white groups
Higher levels of long chain n3-PUFAs were associated with an 18% lower risk of unhealthy aging per interquintile (95% CI, 7% to 28%)
Higher eicosapentaenoic acid was associated with a 15% lower risk of unhealthy aging (95% CI, 6% to 23%)
α-linolenic acid from plants was not associated with unhealthy aging
Hazard ratio 0.92 (95% CI, 0.83 to 1.02)
Association between n3-PUFA levels and healthy aging did not vary by age or sex
Higher levels of serially measured circulation n3-PUFAs from seafood was associated with a higher likelihood of healthy aging
The authors state that
These findings encourage the need for further investigations into plausible biological mechanisms and interventions related to n3-PUFAs for the maintenance of healthy aging, and to support guidelines for increased dietary consumption of fish in older adults
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