The wholesome benefits of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and other forms of seafood have been well documented by the health community. A new study is now claiming the addition of certain fish to an elderly person's diet may lower their risk of heart disease by about 35 percent and overall mortality rate by 27 percent.
Omega-3 fatty acids are not naturally produced by the human body, but they are considered an essential fatty acid for most of the body's main functions. Some noted benefits that past studies have revealed include soothing arthritis, aiding in the breakdown of triglycerides and reducing inflammation in the blood vessels and joints.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, HSPH, said their study is the first of its kind to test the blood biomarkers of fish consumption and how they affect the overall chance of mortality and specific conditions that cause death.
"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" said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, the lead author of the study. "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."
The Cardiovascular Health Study gathered 16 years of data from 2,700 US adults over the age of 65 with healthy backgrounds. Participants involved with the study routinely had blood drawn, underwent physical examinations and diagnostic testing, and were questioned about their health status, medical history, and lifestyle.
When all the facts and figures were assessed, the research team found that three specific types of omega-3 fatty acids substantially reduced the overall chance of mortality. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), either combined or individually administered, had strong associations with reducing the possibility of heart disease and the chance of stroke.
Although these findings present a great deal of positive effects from eating fish, researchers do warn against consuming over the suggested amount. Like most things, too much of a good thing can be bad: an overabundance of omega-3 in a person's system may cause blood to thin, resulting in excess bleeding.
"The findings suggest that the biggest bang-for-your-buck is for going from no intake to modest intake, or about two servings of fatty fish per week," said Mozaffarian.
The University of Washington and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute also contributed to the study that was featured in the April 1, 2013 online edition of Annals of Internal Medicine.