A recent Tufts University study that examined 2,622 adults showed that the consumption of the omega-3s in seafood can promote healthy aging. This is good news for those who want to experience vibrant health for their whole lives, including on into their golden years. While some aspects of the study require more follow-up to determine exactly which types of omega-3s work best as anti-aging formulas, the initial results of the study show significant promise.
Here’s the scoop.
What is Healthy Aging?
Before further discussing the importance of seafood on healthy aging and the study, it is helpful to know how healthy aging is defined. The World Health Organization (or WHO) defines healthy aging as a person’s ability to develop and maintain his/ her functional ability. This ability enables a person to experience well-being in his/ her later years. Additionally, proper functional ability allows people to be who they want to be and to do what they value most in life.
These abilities include a broad range of factors, including:
- The ability to meet their own basic day-to-day needs
- The chance to make decisions for themselves as well as to learn and continue to grow
- The ability to maintain their mobility, to build relationships, and to contribute positively to society
The Tufts researchers, led by Heidi Lai at the School of Nutrition Science and Policy, have further defined healthy aging as a person’s ability to enjoy a meaningful lifespan. It is a life that is absent of chronic diseases and which includes intact mental and physical functions.
Many factors contribute to a person’s ability to age in a healthy manner, including a person’s intrinsic capacity and the person’s environment. The results of the study, which connected the consumption of seafood and other foods high in omega-3s, touches on the effects of a person’s environment as it relates to his/ her ability to remain healthy throughout the remainder of his/ her life.
The Goals of the Study
According to Medical News Today, the Tufts researchers felt that the study of healthy aging merited a closer look, given the increasing rates of aging around the world. The researchers also observed that with aging comes chronic disease.
Additionally, the research conducted was trying to determine what, if any, link there is between age-related chronic disease and omega-3 fatty acids. Lai pointed out that there have been studies that examined the relationship between omega-3s and individual aging components. However, until now, there had not been a study that looked at both of those factors combined.
Aging Vs. Longevity
The absence of chronic conditions, like dementia, heart disease, cancer, and other age-related illnesses after the age of 65 offer better markers of well-being than longevity does, according to a TIME article about the study. That people live longer nowadays isn’t as significant as how they live for as long as they live.
The study followed participants for many years. At the six-year mark and then again, at the 13-year mark, participants’ blood was tested to determine omega-3 levels. At the 25-year follow-up, only 11% of the participants enjoyed the markers of healthy aging. Those who were in the healthy category reported consuming more fish – at least, two serving of fish per week – than others in the study.
Factors in the Study
Many varieties of omega-3 fatty acids exist. The Tufts researchers collected blood samples, which were designed to measure 46 different kinds of omega-3s. Seafoods, like salmon and sardines, are not the only source of omega-3s. Foods like flaxseed and walnuts also contain omega-3, though they are a different kind and are processed differently by the body than the omega-3s found in fish oils.
Additionally, researchers gathered information about each study participant’s health and demographic position. Finally, each participant was asked to fill out a detail questionnaire about their dietary choices.
Other Notable Information
While some studies that Lai and her colleagues referenced showed that omega-3s can positively impact cardiovascular disease, others have been shown a correlation between omega-3 consumption and prostate cancer. Other studies looking at omega-3s and diseases, like diabetes, lung disease, physical and cognitive dysfunction, and kidney disease showed inconclusive or mixed results.
The purpose of the Tufts study was, in part, to clarify some of the findings about omega-3s as they relate to healthy aging.
Sources of Omega-3s
Those who would like to add some healthy omega-3s to their diet have many options to choose from. Aside from being able to acquire omega-3s via supplementation, many popular food items contain omega-3 fatty acids in abundance.
Here is a list of foods that contain omega-3s:
- Cod liver oil
- Mackerel, herring, sardines, anchovies, and salmon
- Flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds
For the best health results, it is best to consume omega-3s at least a couple of times a week.