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Paul S. Mueller, MD, MPH, FACP reviewing
Plasma levels of seafood-derived long-chain ω-3s in elders predicted risk for various adverse conditions.
Although consuming long-chain ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) has favorable physiological effects (e.g., on endothelial function), the relation between plasma PUFAs and healthy aging is unknown. In this prospective cohort study, researchers determined the longitudinal association between serial measures of summed and individual plasma PUFAs (i.e., eicosapentaenoic, docosapentaenoic, and docosahexaenoic acid) and α-linolenic acid and healthy aging.
Participants were 2622 elders (mean age, 74) with healthy aging at baseline. Healthy aging was defined as absence of cardiovascular disease, cancer, lung disease, severe chronic kidney disease, and cognitive and physical dysfunction. Plasma PUFA levels were measured three times during the study period (1992–2015), and participants were classified into quintiles based on their plasma PUFA concentrations. During the study, 89% of participants experienced unhealthy aging. In an analysis that was adjusted for multiple variables, risk for unhealthy aging was 18% lower in participants in the highest PUFA quintile compared with those in the lowest PUFA quintile. A significant dose-response trend was observed. Assessed individually, higher intake of eicosapentaenoic and docosapentaenoic acid (but not docosahexaenoic acid or α-linolenic acid) was associated with lower risk for unhealthy aging.
Higher plasma levels of PUFAs, especially seafood-derived eicosapentaenoic acid and endogenous and seafood-derived docosapentaenoic acid, were associated with higher likelihood of healthy aging. This study is unique in that actual plasma levels, not dietary intake histories, were used. However, given the study design, causality could not be established, residual confounding was possible, and the results might not be generalizable to younger people. Nonetheless, the results support guidelines for increased consumption of fish.