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Cycling man increasing omega-3 blood levels for longer life and lowered risks

Higher Omega-3 Blood Levels Add Healthy Years

A 2021 study found people with higher omega-3 blood levels live 4.7 years longer. Other studies link higher omega-3s to a 34% lower all-cause mortality risk.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Eric Cortez.

Fish oil rich in omega-3s has been shown to lower triglycerides, reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, and protect against cognitive decline.1-3

But the benefits don’t stop there.

A 2021 study found that higher omega-3 blood levels are associated with an increase in life expectancy of 4.7 years.4

Another study found that having the highest omega-3 blood levels, compared to the lowest, was associated with a 34% lower risk of death from any cause.5

For the past four decades Life Extension has educated consumers about the importance of consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids.

Recent data indicate the benefits exceed original expectations.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Diet

The two most important omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, are found primarily in fish oil.

The modern Western diet, which is heavy in beef, pork, and poultry, is extremely low in omega-3s.

At the same time, our diets tend to be very high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in many processed foods.

An excess of omega-6 oils increases chronic inflammation throughout the body, accelerates the development of atherosclerosis, elevates risk for blood clots, and increases risk for obesity.6,7

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and/or regular consumption of cold-water fish can help counter this omega-6 excess.

New Findings About Fish Oil and Lifespan

The Framingham Heart Study is one of the longest-running and most influential medical studies in history. Since it began in 1948, it has followed thousands of people for decades and is now on its third generation of subjects.

Much of what modern medicine knows about the risk factors for heart disease has come from following Framingham study subjects.

The Framingham study, which has been extended by studying the children of the original participants, continues to be a valuable source of information about chronic disease and overall health.

In the past few years, two medical reports examined data on the Framingham offspring cohort and presented remarkable findings about the impact of omega-3 fatty acids on heart health and longevity.4,5

The first paper, published in 2018, focused on the impact of the omega-3 index blood test on health outcomes.5

The omega-3 index is a measure of the percentage of total fats in red blood cells that are EPA and DHA. Prior studies have determined that an omega-3 index of around 8% is optimal. Most people consuming a modern Western diet have a far lower omega-3 score.8,9

Researchers found that a higher omega-3 index was associated with a significantly lower risk of all-cause mortality.5

Having more omega-3s in the blood reduced non-cardiac and non-cancer causes of death, along with cardiovascular events like stroke and heart attack.

Compared to individuals with the lowest omega-3 index score, those with the highest had:5

  • A 34% lower risk of death from any cause, and
  • A 39% lower rate of developing cardiovascular disease.

A more recent analysis, published in 2021 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that the omega-3 index was as good at predicting risk of death during an 11-year follow-up as age, smoking, blood pressure, diabetes, and other well-established risk factors.4

This study also found that having the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, compared to the lowest, was associated with increases in life expectancy of 4.7 years.

Whole-Body Health

Most people associate omega-3 fatty acids with heart health.

There’s good reason for that. Published data support higher intake of omega-3 for both the prevention and management of cardiovascular conditions.10-16

Higher levels of the omega-3 index and regular intake of omega-3s have both been found to reduce risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke, and to reduce mortality from heart disease.15,17,18

Beyond heart health, maintaining high levels of omega-3s contributes to a healthier and longer life.

The following pages describe some of the ways that omega-3s favorably impact longevity.

What you need to know

Omega-3s Promote a Longer, Healthier Life

  • The fish-oil-derived omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are vital nutrients that impact many aspects of health.
  • Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with improved brain and cardiovascular health, along with reductions in chronic inflammation.
  • Recently published analyses from the Framingham Heart Study offspring cohort found links between omega-3 levels and longevity.
  • These reports show that the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, compared with the lowest, were associated with a 34% lower risk of dying from any cause and with increases in life expectancy by almost five years.
  • The highest levels of omega-3s in the blood were also associated with a 39% lower rate of developing cardiovascular disease.

Omega-3 Index Complete At-Home Finger Stick Test

The Omega-3 Index Complete test evaluates your omega-3 index, trans fat index, omega-6: omega-3 ratio, arachidonic acid: EPA ratio, and also includes a full fatty acid profile. #LC100066 • Regular Price: $99 Sale Price: $74.25 (Until July 11, 2022)

To order this at-home test, please call 1-800-544-4440 or visit www.LifeExtension.com

Metabolic Health

Elevated triglycerides are associated with metabolic disturbances that increase heart attack and ischemic stroke risk.19

Increased cardiovascular risks are also associated with small-dense LDL particles,20 very low density lipoproteins (VLDL),21 and remnant lipoprotein particles.22 These are all known promoters of atherosclerosis.23-25 Supplementation with fish oil has positive effects on these and other markers of cardiovascular risk.26-30

Fish oil lowers triglycerides and other atherosclerosis-inducing lipoproteins by:31-35

  • Increasing the clearance of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins from the bloodstream,
  • Decreasing the liver’s production and secretion of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, and
  • Increasing the activity of lipoprotein lipase, which breaks down triglycerides so the body’s tissues can use the fatty acids.

Life Extension considers optimal fasting triglyceride levels to be below 100 mg/dL. Individuals at high risk for cardiovascular events should strive for even lower levels.

Brain Health

Omega-3 fatty acids play a critical role in the brain.

One reason is that they are a key component of brain cell membranes.

Brain cell membranes generate and conduct the electrical signals that play a role in everything from simple movement, to language, reasoning, and memory formation and recall.

These signals cannot be conducted properly without myelin, which insulates the fibers of nerve cells.31 Myelin sheaths that cover nerve fibers require omega-3s to function optimally.37

Omega-3 intake also impacts levels of brain growth factors that support the survival, development, and adaptability of neurons.38-41

One study in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease found that even short-term omega-3 intake improved the function of brain cells in animals that had not yet developed dementia symptoms.42

Mental Health

The benefits of omega-3s in the brain extend to mental health. Studies show that lower fish oil or omega-3 intake is associated with a greater prevalence of depression.41,43-45

In a 2020 study, pregnant women—who are at risk for post-partum depression—were randomized to take either omega-3 fatty acids (containing 1,206 mg EPA and 609 mg DHA) or a placebo.46 Those taking the fish oil saw a decrease in symptoms of depression, while no change was observed in the placebo group.

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation drives nearly all forms of chronic disease, including cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and dementia.

Maintaining a healthy level of omega-3 fatty acids in the body can reduce and help resolve chronic inflammation.6,7,47 That can help lower risk for most age-related chronic illnesses.

Summary

Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for whole-body health.

The most abundant and efficient way to deliver them into your body is through fish oil.

The vast majority of Americans have inadequate intake of these healthy oils in their diet.

Numerous studies show a correlation between higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the body and better health. Other studies show that a high daily dose of fish oil can improve a variety of health outcomes.

A recent report links higher omega-3 levels in the blood with a 4.7-year increase in life expectancy.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life ExtensionWellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

Importance of Omega-3 Testing

The best way to know for sure if you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids is to test your blood levels. The Omega-3 Index is a blood test that can measure the percent of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cells.

Omega-3 testing is easy with a simple at-home finger stick test.

Ideally, your Omega-3-Index score should be greater than 6.8%

One dose-response study estimated that it would take about 1,300 mg of added EPA/DHA from fish or supplements to increase the omega-3 index from less than 4.2% to greater than 6.8%.48

An analysis from the Framingham offspring cohort reveals a red blood cell omega-3 index over 6.8% is associated with 4.7 years additional life expectancy compared with an omega-3 index under 4.2%.4

In another study, people with omega-3 scores greater than 6.8% compared with those less than 4.2% have:5

  • 39% lower risk for cardiovascular disease
  • 34% lower risk of death from any cause

The typical Japanese omega-3 index is greater than 8.0% and that may correlate with a five-year longer life expectancy in Japan.4

To order the at-home Omega -3 Index test, call 1-800-544-4440 or visit www.LifeExtension.com

#LC100066 • Regular Price: $99 Sale Price: $74.25 (Until July 11, 2022)

References

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  3. Titova OE, Sjogren P, Brooks SJ, et al. Dietary intake of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids is linked to gray matter volume and cognitive function in elderly. Age (Dordr). 2013 Aug;35(4):1495-505.
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  5. Harris WS, Tintle NL, Etherton MR, et al. Erythrocyte long-chain omega-3 fatty acid levels are inversely associated with mortality and with incident cardiovascular disease: The Framingham Heart Study. J Clin Lipidol. 2018 May - Jun;12(3):718-27 e6.
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  48. Flock MR, Skulas-Ray AC, Harris WS, et al. Determinants of erythrocyte omega-3 fatty acid content in response to fish oil supplementation: a dose-response randomized controlled trial. J Am Heart Assoc. 2013 Nov 19;2(6):e000513.