Omega-3 levels in older adults linked to better blood lipids levels: Study

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image: © iStockPhoto / marekuliasz
Image: © iStockPhoto / marekuliasz
A higher omega-3 index – a quantification of the fatty acid status of a person – is linked to lower triglyceride levels in older adults, says a new study from Australia.

Data from 276 people over the age of 70 indicated that triglyceride levels were up to 28% lower in those with the highest average omega-3 index, compared to those with the lowest index.

Researchers from the University of Newcastle in New South Wales also report that the higher omega-3 index was associated with a better ratio of total cholesterol to HDL-cholesterol.

“Overall, the risk of developing hypertriglyceridemia is associated with lower omega-3 PUFA status, promoting the importance of omega-3 index for healthy aging,” ​they wrote in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry​.

“The associations reported in our study not only provide merit to the standardization of omega-3 index as a risk factor for early detection and prevention of CVD in older adults but also promote the prompt need for intervention trials investigating the long-term effects of dietary n-3 PUFA supplementation in this older age group. Outcomes from these studies could potentially inform the development and implementation of dietary strategies designed to improve n-3 PUFA status, optimize healthy ageing and ultimately reduce the risk of CVD.”

Omega-3s and blood lipids

Other intervention and observational studies have reported a link between omega-3 levels and triglyceride status in older adults, wrote the authors, led by Jessica Ferguson, a student at the University of Newcastle.

“The detection of an association between omega-3 index and plasma triglyceride levels confirms the long-term validity of the association between n-3 PUFA and triglyceride among older adults since erythrocyte fatty acids reflect sustained dietary n-3 PUFA intake.”

Study details

Omega-3 Softgels © mphillips007
Image © iStockPhoto / mphillips007

The researchers analyzed data from 276 people with a mean age of 77.6 who participated in the Retirement Health and Lifestyle Study. The results showed that women had significantly higher omega-3 indexes than men, and that the omega-3 index was inversely associated with triglyceride levels and the ration of total to HDL cholesterol in all of the participants. There was also a positive association between the omega-3 index and HDL-cholesterol levels in all of the subjects, they added.

However, differences between men and women were observed. Specifically, the odds of having elevated triglyceride levels were highest only in women with the lowest omega-3 index.

“Converse trends between males and females for hypercholesterolemia and elevated LDL risk encourage the need for intervention trials that subgroup on gender,”​ wrote Ferguson and her co-authors. “This could have implications for age- and potential gender-specific recommendations for dietary n-3 PUFA intake in order to effectively optimize the hypolipidemic effects of n-3 PUFA and to maintain an anti-atherogenic blood lipid profile. It is possible that the interaction of sex hormones and n-3 PUFA will need to be considered.”

Source: The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Volume 27, Issue null, Pages 233-240, doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2015.09.010
“Association between omega-3 index and blood lipids in older Australians”
Authors: J.J.A. Ferguson, M. Veysey, M. Lucock, S. Niblett, K. King, L. MacDonald-Wicks, M.L. Garg

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