While no one can predict with certainty what the span of your life may be, there is new scientific evidence to support a choice that will increase very significantly your best chance of a long survival. Unsuspecting and unpredicted events are an ever present threat to longevity, and minimising these risks is our best form of insurance.
Recent scientific evidence suggests that risk factors can be massively diminished by adopting simple dietary measures that include a regular and substantial intake of fish oil. (1)
Observational evidence suggests that a dietary intake of 1400mg. to 2000 mg. of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 1000 mg. to 1500 mg. of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) will provide sufficient levels of essential fatty acids to support health and protection against heart disease and its unwanted consequences, (2) as well as a host of prevailing chronic ailments.
The widespread scourge of heart disease continues to take its sad and deadly toll, yet 30 years ago this phenomenon was rare, and unknown amongst the Greenland Eskimos, who enjoyed a generous dietary intake of oily fish on a daily basis. Their frequent intake of cold water salmon guaranteed them high levels of EPA and DHA in their blood and body tissues, affording them protection against an array of chronic illnesses that predominate in western society today. (3)
We now know that omega 3 fatty acids, if derived from uncontaminated sources, can reduce or suppress, potentially lethal abnormal cardiac arrhythmias that often follow a heart attack. (4)
These fatty acids can also prevent the unnecessary clotting of blood that can precede a fatal coronary thrombosis, or stabilise a plaque in the arterial wall that is threatening to rupture and obstruct blood supply to the heart muscles. (5)
The omega 3 heart-friendly fatty acids have also been shown to prevent the aggregation of platelets that can increase the potential for clotting, or the formation of thrombi, and are demonstrably safer than aspirin, often prescribed to prevent blood clotting in at-risk patients. (6)
While aspirin has the potential for causing stomach ulcers and internal bleeding, omega 3 presents no such risk, and provides for a safe, and reliable alternative for patients with heart disease. (7)
It is therefore not surprising that in the first randomised controlled trial conducted in 1989, at the University of Wales (DART STUDY), 2033 men with a history of previous heart attack experienced a 29% reduction in mortality. (8) and in the renowned Gissi-Prevenzione Trial, conducted in Italy in 1999, in which 11000 subjects were enrolled, a 30% reduction in mortality and a 45% reduction in sudden death was recorded in this group after 4 years. (9)
Harvard University researchers showed an 80% reduction in risk for sudden cardiac death in their 2002 study. (10)
A plethora of trials and studies have since been conducted that clearly demonstrate the life sustaining and health preserving benefits of omega 3 fatty acids, also known as n-3 fatty acids in the more recently adopted nomenclature.
The anti-inflammatory properties of EPA and DHA serve to counter the inflammatory effects of dietary omega 6 which is ubiquitous in processed foods, and which, in excess, may contribute to a host of chronic inflammatory disorders, which adversely affect mental health, bone health, heart health, joint health and may even promote conditions such as diabetes and cancer. (11)
The anti-cancer benefits of omega 3 have been widely observed and documented. (12) (13)
More recently, the anti-ageing properties of omega 3 were clearly evident in the HEART & SOUL STUDY, conducted in California, in which dietary omega 3 was positively associated with a novel marker of biological ageing. (14)
Chromosomal telomeres are small protective caps at the end of every chromosome, and they shorten with age, causing, ultimately, the demise of the cell . They are thus useful biomarkers of biological ageing.
The subjects in this study, who had high levels of omega 3 in their blood, demonstrated a reversal of telomere shortening, which, in effect, implied a reversal of biological ageing !
Not only were these subjects protected from having a second heart attack, they were biological younger after 5 years, despite their chronological ageing !
Interestingly, the benefits of telomere lengthening were not demonstrated in patients using statin drugs. (15)
So, how long you live, and how well you feel, and how young you become, can definitely be determined by how much omega 3 is in your blood stream, and in the fatty membranes of your seventy three trillion human cells !
1. J.Am Coll of Cardiol. 2009,Aug. 11
2. Lancet Aug. 7 1999; 354; 447 – 455
3. The Ultimate Omega 3 Diet . Evelyn Tribole.
4. Lancet 1989, Sept 30, 2 (8666):751-61
5. Lancet 2003, Feb 8.36 (9350) 477 – 85
6. Thromb Vasc Biol. 2004, Sept. 24 (9) 1734 – 40
7. The Dangers of Aspirin – The American College of Gastro.
8. Lancet 1989, 7 Sept 30 (8666) 757 – 61 (DART)
9. Lancet 1999, Aug. 7: 354 (9177): 447 –55
10. NEJM 2002, April 11, (5) 113 – 8
11. Biomed Pharmacother 2002, Oct; 56 (8); 365 – 79
12. Nutr. Cancer 2000 : 37 (2):119 – 23
13. Neoplasia 2006 Feb: 8 (2) :112 – 24
14. JAMA Jan 20, 2010 vol.303, no.3
15. Circulation 2004; 110 (19): 3136 – 3142
Dr Neville Wilson is a Doctor in Maynooth