Study: Omega-3 Index is a Strong Risk Predictor of Premature Death

Sioux Falls, SD—A new paper, published in Nature Communications, looks at the relationship between the Omega-3 Index and risk for death from any and all causes. The finding: People with higher omega-3 EPA and DHA blood levels (Omega-3 Index) lived longer than those with lower levels. As explained in a press release from the non-profit research and education foundation Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI), people who died with relatively low omega-3 levels died prematurely. All else being equal, the release explains, these people might have lived longer if their levels had been higher.

The paper is from the The Fatty Acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCE), comprised of researchers from around the world who have gathered data on blood fatty acid levels in large groups of study subjects and followed those individuals for years to determine what diseases they develop. The current study focused on omega-3 levels and the risk for death during the follow-up period, and thanks to data pooled from the consortium’s researchers, it is the largest study yet to do so, FARI reported.

The new report is a prospective analysis of pooled data from 17 separate
cohorts from around the world, including 42,466 people followed for 16 years on
average. During that time, 15,720 of the people died. Analysis revealed that those who had the highest EPA+DHA levels (i.e., at the 90th percentile) had a statistically significant, 13% lower risk for death than people with EPA+DHA levels in the 10th percentile. The researchers looked at three major causes of death and found statistically significant risk reductions (comparing the 90th vs 10th percentile):

  • Cardiovascular disease: 15% risk reduction
  • Cancer: 11% risk reduction
  • All other causes combined: 13% risk reduction

The researchers noted that the findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may beneficially affect overall health and slow the aging process. “Since all of these analyses were statistically adjusted for multiple personal and medical factors (i.e., age, sex, weight, smoking, diabetes, blood pressure, etc., plus blood omega-6 fatty acid levels), we believe that these are the strongest data published to date supporting the view that over the long-term, having higher blood omega-3 levels can help maintain better overall health,” said Dr. Bill Harris, Founder of the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI), and lead author on this paper, in the release.

Tom Brenna, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, Human Nutrition, and Chemistry, Dell Medical School of the University of Texas at Austin, added: “This comprehensive look at observational studies of circulating omega-3 fatty acids indicates that the long chain omega-3s EPA, DPA, and DHA, usually obtained from seafood, are strongly associated with all-cause mortality, while levels of the plant omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are less so.”

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Read the full paper here.