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Having Low Levels of Omega-3 Can Shorten Your Life, New Study Says

But research has found eating more of it may "slow the aging process" and benefit your overall health.

In recent years, lots of studies have looked at the relationship between eating healthy fats and one's heart health. However, a new paper has zeroed in on how one particular fatty acid impacts not only cardiovascular health, but also overall wellness and longevity. From the researchers' conclusion—and their approach to the analysis—the effect of this diet upgrade seems clear.

A meta-anlysis by Fatty Acids and Outcomes Research (FORCE) was published this week in Nature Communications. This paper summarizes findings based on 17 past studies that looked at omega-3 fatty acid levels in the blood.

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The researchers left out lifestyle, on purpose.

fly-fishing, Fremont Canyon, Wyoming

The FORCE researchers acknowledged that omega-3 data over the years have often shown the benefits of the fatty acid's presence, but critics of these past studies have pointed out that factors besides the presence of omega-3 fatty acids could also contribute to wellness and longevity.

So, in the current analysis, the researchers reviewed past studies that had examined blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids (since blood level data can serve as an objective metric), rather than allowing for a broader scope of possible lifestyle variables.

They narrowed in on omega-3 fatty acids.

salmon and nuts omega 3 rich foods

The new paper's authors looked at omega-3 blood levels across 42,500 human subjects over 16 years, of whom nearly 16,000 had died. The researchers broke down the causes of death into three categories: cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all other causes combined. The scientists found that the risk of death from these causes reduced between 11% and 15% for individuals who had higher levels of omega-3 in their blood.

The study's conclusions delivered fresh findings.

Fish oil supplement

From the news release:

"[The study] showed that those people with higher omega-3 [blood levels] … lived longer than those with lower levels. In other words, those people who died with relatively low omega-3 levels died prematurely, i.e., all else being equal, they might have lived longer had their levels been higher."

The paper's abstract also notes that people with a high Omega-3 Index are 13% less likely to die prematurely compared to those with a low omega-3 levels.

This means omega-3 presence may slow overall aging.

Senior Couple Walking Along Beach Together

This analysis reveals that omega-3 fatty acid not only serves efforts to maintain cardiovascular health, but, as the abstract states: omega-3 "may beneficially affect overall health and thus slow the aging process."

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If you're sold, get our list of the 26 best omega-3 foods.

Then, besides diet, what makes an impact when it comes to living long and staying healthy? Read Totally Surprising Things That Affect Your Lifespan, According to Science.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more about Krissy