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Eating More of These Foods Can Add Five Years to Your Life, New Study Suggests

Plus, there are plenty of delicious ways to prepare them.
FACT CHECKED BY Cheyenne Buckingham

Omega-3 fatty acids have been spotlighted many times for the role they play in boosting heart health, lowering inflammation, and helping control weight gain. Those kinds of effects don't just give you a better quality of life–they could give you a longer one, too.

A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that people who have more of these fatty acids in their blood tend to live up to five years longer than those who don't. To come to that conclusion, researchers looked at data on 2, 240 people over age 65 who were part of a long-term study on health outcomes. They found that even a small difference of 1% between these groups made a difference.

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"This reinforces the idea that small changes in the diet can have a much more powerful effect than we think," says study author Aleix Sala-Vila, Ph.D., at the Fatty Acid Research Institute and the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Spain. "In fact, in this study, we found that omega-3 level can be as much of a predictor of longevity as smoking."

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In the same way that tobacco use is shown to shorten life, he says, the omega-3 level could be seen as an indicator of prolonging it. Although the study included only individuals over age 65, that doesn't mean you need to wait until post-retirement to get benefits of this particular fatty acid, he adds. Previous research indicating that it has a protective effect on your health means it's never too early to start.

The biggest benefit is the reduction in inflammation, says Kim Rose-Francis, RDN, a dietitian nutritionist specializing in diabetes. Eating omega-3 foods like salmon, flaxseeds, halibut, tuna, mackerel, and chia seeds can help control inflammation in the body, she suggests.

"Inflammation is a normal process, as a defense mechanism the body uses to protect itself," says Rose-Francis. "Unfortunately, when there's excessive or unresolved inflammation, that can lead to the development of chronic conditions."

Eating a diet high in omega-3s can help quench that fire, she adds. Another great source of fatty acids? High-quality dark chocolate. Who knew the little treat could potentially promote longevity.

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Elizabeth Millard
Elizabeth Millard is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness, and nutrition. Read more about Elizabeth
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