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In addition to gaining and losing weight, the foods we eat can have an enormous impact on our overall health. Research has shown that eating the right combination of vitamins, minerals, healthy cholesterol, and antioxidants can lower your risk of disease and infection, while also helping you live a fuller, more enjoyable life. One food item that needs to become a staple of every diet, according to a new study, is coldwater fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, which researchers suggest can help to increase a person’s lifespan.

A study conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health involving over 2,600 adults found that participants who showed the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids lived on average two years longer when compared to those with lower blood levels. The results of this study come as welcome news for those who have begun to worry whether earlier findings regarding the healthy benefits of fish were incorrect.

Over the last year, a number of studies have begun to cast doubt on the effect fish oil supplements have on the body. Researchers stressed that the results of this study did not examine the benefits of supplements, but rather what benefits a diet high in fish could offer. This latest study adds to the growing evidence that omega-3 fatty acids only benefit the body when eaten, rather than taken as a supplement.

The results of this study were published in the April edition of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

A Healthy Catch

While researchers were careful to state that no direct evidence exists that shows eating fish will increase longevity, the study does suggest a connection.

Researchers consistently found that high levels of omega-3 in the blood lowered a person’s risk of death, especially from cardiovascular disease. Study participants with the highest omega-3 levels in their blood reduced their risk of dying from any cause by 27 percent, but reduced their risk of dying from heart disease by 35 percent.

Fish contains fatty acids and heart-healthy protein, and a variety of additional studies have found that diets high in fish lower a person’s risk of death from heart disease. However, until recent, the benefits fish could offer in preventing death from other sources had not been fully studied.

According to the American Heart Association, two 3.5 ounce severing of fatty fish such as albacore tuna, lake trout, herring, mackerel, and salmon a week is recommended for every adult diet.

A Different Approach

Unlike previous studies that had relied upon participants self-reporting their fish intake, the Harvard research team elected to take blood samples to accurately measure fatty acid levels. At the beginning of the study, researchers also performed physical examinations of the participants and asked questions about their lifestyle. None of the participants, who averaged 74 years of age, were taking supplements at the time of the study.

Over the next 16 years of following up on participants, 1,625 individuals involved in the study passed away, including 570 from cardiovascular related issues. Individuals who had the highest levels of omega-3 in their system at the beginning of the study successfully lowered their risk of dying during this period.

Timothy Lemke is a freelance health writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Brett Johnson, a dentist in Oregon City.


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