Eating plenty of oily fish like salmon or mackerel can slash the risk of a premature death by up to a third, according to new research. A study of 2,500 older people found those who had the highest amounts of omega-3 were 34 percent less likely to die within the next seven years.
They were also 39 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. The fatty acids – found in oily seafood such as salmon, mackerel and sardines – were a better predictor of good health than cholesterol levels.
Lead author Dr. William Harris, of the University of South Dakota, said: “We all know the serum cholesterol level is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
“Since the latter is a major cause of death in the Western world, it would be reasonable to expect a high cholesterol level would portend higher risk for premature death. This did not turn out to be the case here.
“When baseline serum cholesterol levels were substituted for the Omega-3 Index in the same multi-variable models, the former was not significantly associated with any of the tracked outcomes whereas the latter was related to four of the five outcomes assessed.”
The study funded by the US National Institutes of Health found a diet rich in oily fish was associated with a lower risk for heart attacks, strokes, coronary heart disease and deaths from all other causes. This would suggest a wide spectrum of beneficial actions of the key omega-3 acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Dr. Harris said their actions in the body are not just linked with one pathological process, such as a build up of plaque in the arteries. The study published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology analysed the value of measuring blood levels of EPA and DHA to assess.