A new study now reveals that eating plenty of oily fish like salmon or mackerel can slash risk of premature death by up to a third.
The study, involving 2,500 elderly found those who had the highest amounts of omega-3 were 34 per cent less likely to die within the next seven years.
The study further found that they were also 39 per cent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.
Fatty acids found in oily seafood such as salmon, mackerel and sardines were better predictors of good health.
Lead author of the study Dr William Harris, of the University of South Dakota said that serum cholesterol level is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. He further added that since the latter is a major cause of death in the Western world, it would be reasonable to expect a high cholesterol level would portend higher risk for premature death.
However, he said that the study dispelled that notion.
Harris added, “When baseline serum cholesterol levels were substituted for the Omega-3 Index in the same multi-variable models, the former was not significantly associated with any of the tracked outcomes whereas the latter was related to four of the five outcomes assessed.”
The study funded by the US National Institutes of Health found a diet rich in oily fish was associated with a lower risk for heart attacks, strokes, coronary heart disease and deaths from all other causes.
This would suggest a wide spectrum of beneficial actions of the key omega-3 acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
The study published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology analysed the value of measuring blood levels of EPA and DHA to assess an individual's risk for developing certain diseases.
It used a scale known as the 'omega-3 Index' to measure levels of the fatty acids in the red blood cells of participants in the Framingham Heart Study which has followed residents of the Massachusetts town since 1948.
Dr Harris said, “When total cholesterol was compared with the omega-3 Index in the same models, the latter was significantly related with these outcomes, but the former was not,” adding, “The causes of death most strongly associated with the omega-3 Index were non-cardiovascular disease and non cancer, in other words, 'other' causes.”
Dr Harris said the link between higher omega-3 blood levels and lower risk for death has been reported in at least three other studies....