Findings that support an increased dietary consumption of omega-3 in older people


Healthy ageing is generally defined as survival without chronic diseases or cognitive and physical dysfunction after age 65, but the definition of the World Health Organization includes other aspects; it defines healthy ageing as the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age. Functional ability is having the capabilities that enable all people to be and do what they have reason to value: meet their basic needs, to make decisions, to be mobile, to build and maintain relationships, and to contribute to society (ageing does not necessarily decrease a person’s ability for the latter).

Good nutrition and physical activity (especially if combined with social activities) play a significant role in determining the well-being of older people. Many of the diseases suffered by older people are a result of dietary factors, and people who are physically active are generally healthier than those who are sedentary.

Several studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids exert many favorable molecular and physiologic effects that could promote a healthy ageing, for example on: blood pressure, the function of the interior surface of blood vessels, plasma triglycerides, heart rate, and inflammation. Higher levels of long chain omega-3 fatty acids have been associated in a recent research with an 18% lower risk of unhealthy ageing (in other words, with a higher likelihood of healthy ageing). The conclusions of this study are particularly relevant, because it has been made measuring biomarkers of the omega-3 fatty acids status (instead of eating habits questionnaires), and over a long period of time (1992 to 2015). Furthermore, another team of researchers have found that older people with an omega-3 index (the combined percentage of EPA and DHA in red blood cell membranes) below approximately 5% are at increased risk of cognitive decline.

These findings support an increased dietary consumption of omega-3 fatty acids in older people. It is never too late to change dietary habits to staying healthier for longer.


Coley N, Raman R, Donohue MC, Aisen PS, Vellas B, Andrieu S. Defining the Optimal Target Population for Trials of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation Using the Erythrocyte Omega-3 Index: A Step Towards Personalized Prevention of Cognitive Decline? J Nutr Health Aging. 2018;22(8):982-98.

Lai HT, de Oliveira Otto MC, Lemaitre RN, McKnight B, Song X, King IB, et al. Serial circulating omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and healthy ageing among older adults in the Cardiovascular Health Study: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2018;363:k4067.

Ageing and life-course. What is Healthy Ageing? [Internet]. Geneva: World Health Organization.

Healthy ageing [Internet]. EuroHealthNet. European partnership for improving health, equity & wellbeing.