Why Omega-3 Fats Might Help You Live Longer

Omega 3 Fatty Acids May Protect the Brain After a Stroke

A Mediterranean diet is chock full of food that is good for your body (and your taste buds). It may also help you live longer. A recent study on the Mediterranean diet associated with longer telomere length; the shorter the telomere the more aging and disease-prone. The study, which began in 1976, looked at over 100,000 female nurses in 11 U.S. states ranging in age from 30 to 55 years old. What researchers discovered is that women who had the highest Alternate Mediterranean diet score ate more vegetables, fruits, grains, fish, legumes, and nuts. They also had higher telomere lengths. In other words, women who stuck closest to the Mediterranean diet seemed to live longer.

Read more about omega-3 fatty acids

Perhaps the reason the women in the study had higher telomere lengths is that by eating a Mediterranean diet they consume more omega fats. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating mostly plant-based foods including nuts. It also emphasizes eating fish and replaces butter with healthy fats like olive oil. All of which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. A few studies link living longer to consuming omega-3 fatty acids. A study published last fall found that taking omega-3 supplements might slow aging. The study looked at overweight middle-aged and older adults who took omega-3 supplements for four months. What researchers found is that they had longer telomeres.

"The telomere finding is provocative in that it suggests the possibility that a nutritional supplement might actually make a difference in aging," said lead author Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State.

A 2013 study found that eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help you live longer. The study looked at over 2,000 health older American adults from 1992 to 2008. The ones with the ones who had the highest omega-3 levels lowered their risk of dying by 27 percent, and their risk of dying from heart disease by 35 percent. The participants in the study didn't take supplements but got omega-3s from the foods they ate.

Read more about omega-3 fatty acids and slowing the aging process

How can you increase your omega-3 fatty acids? The answer is simple: eat the right foods. If you like fish, then add certain types of fish to your diet including salmon (wild, not farmed), tuna, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, sturgeon, bluefish, herring, and lake trout. These fish are high in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fatty acids. You can also get omega-3s from plant sources that have alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) fatty acids. Foods such as walnuts, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, and olive oil are high in ALA fatty acids.

[Editor's Note: If you want to learn more about how to incorporate omega-3s into your diet, click here to sign up for Naturally Savvy's Omega-3 Get Healthy Challenge.]

Image: Pauline Mak

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Gina-Marie is a freelance writer armed with a passion for healthy living and a degree in journalism. Hailing from the dry, sunny Central San Joaquin Valley, she hasn't let the heat fry her brain!