An oily fish-rich diet could protect you from ill health in old age

An oily fish-rich diet could protect you from ill health in old age

Eating a diet rich in oily fish can help to lead to a healthier old age, according to a new study in the US. The research was carried out by researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston.

They found that those with high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from seafood had a 24 per cent lower chance of being unhealthy in their old age. The study was designed to build on previous research that had suggested that omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) from fish and plants may be beneficial, but had inconsistent findings.

The team in Boston looked at the association between circulating blood levels of n-3 PUFAs and the health of adults as they got older. Some 2,622 people took part in the research, which was conducted between 1992 and 2015, with the average age of participants being 74 at the beginning of the study.

Scientists measured the levels of n3-PUFAs in the subjects’ blood at the start of the study, six years in and again after 13 years. This established how much eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and alpha linolenic acid (ALA) was in their systems.

While ALA comes from plants, dietary sources of EPA, DHA and DPA are seafood. The researchers took the results and split the participants into five groups, known as quintiles. They ranged from the lowest levels of circulating blood n-3 PUFA through to the highest.

Of all of those included in the study, 89 per cent were found to be experiencing unhealthy ageing, while 11 per cent were getting older healthily. This was assessed through analysing medical records and a series of diagnostic tests.

This meant that they did not suffer from any chronic diseases or experience physical or mental dysfunction. After social, economic and other lifestyle factors were taken into consideration, it was found that levels of seafood-derived EPA in the top quintile led to a 24 per cent healthier ageing process than those in the bottom quintile.

The study concluded: "These findings encourage the need for further investigations into plausible biological mechanisms and interventions related to n3-PUFAs for maintenance of healthy ageing, and support guidelines for increased dietary consumption of fish among older adults."

Official advice from the NHS says that a healthy diet should include a minimum of two portions of fish a week, with one of them being oily fish. If you’re not sure which fish fall in this category, then salmon, mackerel and sardines are a good place to start.

They have a large proportion of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and are a significant source of vitamin D. Steaming, baking and grilling the fish are the best ways to prepare them when it comes to staying healthy.

The latest research from Boston backs up this advice and shows that upping your fish intake in early adulthood can help benefit you later in life. Experiencing a pain-free ageing process is something everyone should be aspiring too and will help individuals stay independent for longer.