Monday, March 03, 2014

Can Eating Fish Prolong Life?

American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people who have no coronary heart disease (CHD) should eat a variety of fish, preferably oily fish such as salmon and tuna, at least twice a week.  

Eating fish is good for the health because of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), These fatty acids have been shown to benefit the heart of healthy people and those at high risk for or who already have cardiovascular disease.

In a study released on April 2, 2013 in the journal ‘Annals of Internal Medicine’, researchers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, University of New Mexico, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of Washington reported that people, who were 65 and older and ate fish, may live an average of 2 years longer than people who did not consume the omega-3 fatty acids.

While other studies have found link between omega-3 fatty acids and lower risk of heart disease, this study aimed to determine the link between fish eating and mortality risk.

Researchers analyzed records of older people by scanning 16 years of data on about 2,692 American adults aged 74 years (plus or minus 5 years) without prevalent CHD, stroke, or heart failure. These participants were not taking fish oil supplements.

Their findings indicated that those with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had the lowest risk of dying from any cause, and lived an average of 2.2 years longer than those with low levels. Omega-3 fatty acids were found mainly in fish like salmon, tuna, halibut, sardines, herring and mackerel.

DHA was found to be the most strongly linked to lower risk of CHD death. EPA, on the other hand, was strongly related to lower risk of nonfatal heart attack and DPA (docosapentaenoic acid) was most strongly associated with lower risk of dying from a stroke. Even after adjusting for demographic, lifestyle and diet factors, the results persisted.

Importance of adequate blood omega-3 levels for cardiovascular health was indeed supported by the findings, which also suggested that in life these benefits could extend the years of remaining life.

According to AHA, people who had CHD are advised to consume about 1 gram of EPA and DHA per day, preferably from oily fish, though EPA & DHA supplements could be taken as well but should be in consultation with their doctors. People who have elevated triglycerides require 2 to 4 grams of EPA and DHA provided as capsules on a daily basis under doctor’s care.

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