Old, frail and ill? EPA may keep you alive
The media report frequently about studies on the protective effect of a diet with a relatively large amount of omega-3 fatty acids, but you do not hear much about research into the life-prolonging effects of omega-3 fatty acids. Yet it is there. We found one study by chance, in a ten-year-old edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Norwegian biochemists studied 254 frail and sick people over 65, who had to be admitted to a hospital. The researchers determined how much EPA the participants' blood cells had built into their membranes. On this basis, the researchers divided the study participants into 4 equally large groups [quartiles]. Then the researchers looked which participants died in a period of 3 years.
In the quartile with the lowest EPA concentration, the chance of death was twice as high as among the participants with higher concentrations of EPA in their blood.
"The Norwegian population, especially the elderly, traditionally has a high intake of fish", wrote the reserachers. "This is a characteristic we share with other populations throughout the circumpolar north, where fish is abundant and is an important part of the diet."
"Our low EPA group has a mean % by weight of EPA and DHA of 1.01 and 7.09, respectively", vervolgen de Noren. "The lowest quartile in our population is in the same range as the mean of other populations."
The researchers also looked at other omega-3 fatty acids, but found no correlations.
"A moderate dietary intake of n−3 fatty acids in the elderly (age >65 y) reduces their overall mortality if they become acutely ill and hospitalized", the Norwegians wrote. "The results also suggest that approximately 25% of this Norwegian population might have benefited from an increased dietary intake before the acute incident."
"The reported differences in EPA and DHA concentrations suggest that this proportion might be considerably higher in other populations."
"In future intervention studies, baseline status of marine n-3 fatty acids should be established in eligible study participants and entered in the inclusion criteria to include only participants who are likely to benefit from intervention."
Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Sep;88(3):722-9.
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