Omega-3s and -6s extend healthy life

Omega-3s vs. cholesterol

The link between omega-3s and chances of death from heart, circulatory, or any other cause has been unclear, until now. In this study, doctors measured cell-membrane levels of the omega-3s EPA, DHA, and DPA in 2,500 men and women, average age 66.

After seven years, those who began the study with the highest Omega-3 Index scores, greater than 6.8 percent, were 34 percent less likely to have died from any cause, and 39 percent less likely to have died from heart or circulatory causes, including stroke, compared to those with Omega-3 Index scores below 4.2 percent.

In a first-of-its-kind test, doctors compared the Omega-3 Index scores with total cholesterol levels, which they had also measured at the start of the study. Although they had expected to find a link between lower cholesterol levels and reduced chances for the causes of death they had tracked in the study, this turned out not to be the case.


Linoleic acid (LA) is the most common omega-6 fatty acid, and earlier studies found a cholesterol benefit. But some doctors have expressed concern that once LA converts to arachidonic acid (A A) in the body, A A promotes low-grade inflammation.

In this study, doctors measured omega-6 levels in 2,480 men, aged 42 to 60, some with a history of heart, circulatory, diabetic disease, or cancer, and some without. After 22 years of follow-up, those with the highest levels of LA were 43 percent less likely to have died prematurely from any cause compared to those with the lowest levels. There was also a similar, but milder, relationship between high levels of A A and better chances of survival.

A person’s diet will determine LA levels, with the main sources being vegetable oils, plant-based spreads, and nuts and seeds, but diet will have very little effect on A A levels.

Reference: Journal of Clinical Lipidology; 2018, S1933-2874, Published Online
Natural Insights for Well Being July 2018
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