Eating More of This Food Can Add 5 Years to Your Life, Study Says

Researchers found people with plenty of this in their diet had longer lifespans.

It's not exactly a secret that eating the right foods can help you stay healthy. Research has shown that adding or removing certain things from your diet can have major benefits for your heart or brain health. Now, a new study has uncovered more evidence that what you eat can keep you alive longer, finding that one type of food in particular can add as much as five years to your life. Read on to see what you might want to start working into your meals.

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Eating more oily fish can add five years to your life.

variety of fish on table, salmon and shrimp
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The latest research, which was recently published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is the result collaborative study between the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) in Spain and The Fatty Acid Research Institute that aimed to determine if levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood could be used to predict death risk accurately. The team analyzed data from 2,240 people over the age of 65 collected in a long-term study called the Framingham Offspring Cohort, which has been monitoring the health of residents in a Massachusetts town since 1971. The average duration of monitoring was about 11 years per patient.

Results found that even a one percent increase of omega-3 levels in tests greatly decreased the risk of early death. "Having higher levels of these acids in the blood, as a result of regularly including oily fish in the diet, increases life expectancy by almost five years," Aleix Sala-Vila, MD, the study's author from the IMIM's Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group, said in a media release. Also, he added: "Being a regular smoker takes 4.7 years off your life expectancy, the same as you gain if you have high levels of omega-3 acids in your blood."

Researchers say it's "never too late or too early" to make changes that can lengthen your life.

people eating outside, mediterranean food on table
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The study results were surprising in that it found four types of fatty acids in the blood were associated with a decreased risk of death. This includes two saturated fatty acids, which are typically thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease at high levels. "This reaffirms what we have been seeing lately," Sala-Vila said in the statement. "Not all saturated fatty acids are necessarily bad."

The study's authors ultimately concluded that the results could have a major impact on how we address our health as we age. "What we have found is not insignificant. It reinforces the idea that small changes in diet in the right direction can have a much more powerful effect than we think, and it is never too late or too early to make these changes," Sala-Vila said.

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The American Heart Association suggests two servings a week of oily fish.

various kinds of fish in metal cans
Shutterstock/Ilia Nesolenyi

The researchers say they will do further research on omega-3 fatty oils by conducting a study on a larger portion of the population. In the meantime, they cite the American Heart Association's (AHA) suggested diet, which recommends two weekly servings of oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna. The guidelines specify that each serving should be about 3.5 ounces cooked or about three-quarters of a cup of flaked fish.

Other studies have found eating more fish can add years to your life and boost your health.

trout on plate
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This isn't the first study to link omega-3s with major health benefits. For example, a study published in BMJ in 2018 followed 2,622 adults with an average age of 74 from 1992 and 2015 to see if they developed any chronic diseases or other mental or physical ailments.

After investigators measured the level of certain omega-3 oils in participants' blood samples, results found that those in the top one-fifth percentile of high omega-3 levels were 18 percent less likely to show signs of unhealthy aging, The New York Times reports. "In our study, we found that adults with higher blood levels of omega-3s from seafood were more likely to live longer and healthier lives. So it is a great idea to eat more fish," Heidi T.M. Lai, PhD, the study's lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at Tufts University, said.

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Zachary Mack
Zachary is a freelance writer covering beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. Read more
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