A lack of omega-3 oil in the diet can shorten life even more than smoking, new research warns.
Scientists found that smoking knocked four years off life expectancy whereas low levels of the fatty acid found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, could reduce it by five years.
The oil is known to be good for the heart and reduces blood clots.
‘In the final combined model, smoking and the Omega-3 Index seem to be the most easily modified risk factors.
‘Being a current smoker, at age 65, is predicted to subtract more than four years of life, compared with not smoking, a life shortening equivalent to having a low vs. a high Omega-3 Index.’
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, used statistics from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), one of the longest running studies in the world.
Researchers in the study found that measuring fatty acids could predict mortality similarly to standard risk factors.
Co-author Dr Bill Harris, President of the Fatty Acid Research Institute, said: ‘The information carried in the concentrations of four red blood cell fatty acids was as useful as that carried in lipid levels, blood pressure, smoking, and diabetic status with regard to predicting total mortality.
‘This speaks to the power of the Omega-3 Index as a risk factor and should be considered just as important as the other established risk factors, and maybe even more so.’
Researchers in the study discovered lifestyle choices could help identify those at risk.
It could also be useful to prevent ill health, delay death and do treatment approach assessments.