Year in Review: What We Learned About Omegas in 2018
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Salmon good fats

Research has uncovered many benefits of healthy fats:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA), have a positive impact on brain development, heart health, cognition and mental health.
  • Omega-6 fatty acids are also a type of PUFA and are important for heart health.
  • Omega-9 fatty acids, also known as monounsaturated fats (MUFA), have been shown to influence heart health, blood sugar control and possibly body composition.

While scientific evidence supporting the health impact of good fats is robust, research continues to uncover potential benefits, and 2018 was no exception. In this blog post, we are sharing three 2018 studies on healthy fats and what they unveiled.

Plant-Based MUFAs More Beneficial Than Animal Sources

Some research has questioned the impact of replacing harmful nutrients with (MUFA)1, but a 2018 Harvard study may shed light on the reason for this discrepancy.

Researchers analyzed dietary information from 93,000 subjects in the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study to determine the effects of substituting plant- and animal-based MUFAs for saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and trans fat. When MUFA from plant sources was modeled to replace saturated fats, refined carbohydrates or trans fats, risks for coronary heart disease were 17 percent, 14 percent and 20 percent lower, respectively. However, when MUFA from animal sources replaced these nutrients, benefits were only seen with replacement of trans fatty acids (12 percent reduced risk), whereas replacing saturated fats and carbohydrates increased risk by 4 percent and 11 percent, respectively. While promising, this research was observational and would benefit from being studied in intervention settings.

Seafood Promotes Healthy Aging

Evidence suggests that consuming fish may promote longevity2, but in addition to increasing length of life, it may also impact quality of life.

A study published in the BMJ found older adults (average age of 74) with the highest levels (top 20 percent) of omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood had an 18 percent lower risk of aging unhealthily (defined as survival without chronic diseases, the absence of cognitive and physical dysfunction, or death from other causes not part of the healthy aging outcome after age 65), compared with those with the lowest consumption. When researchers looked at specific omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) were shown to have the greatest impact.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Promote Positive Pregnancy Outcomes

When it comes to pregnancy, omega-3 fatty acids are best known for their role in infant brain and eye development3 — but that may not be the only benefits.

Findings from a meta-analysis of more than 70 studies suggest omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy may reduce the risk of pre-term labor. In the analysis, involving nearly 20,000 pregnant women, those who took omega-3 supplements were 42 percent less likely to give birth before 34 weeks gestation and 11 percent less likely to go into labor before week 37 of pregnancy. Researchers also found supplementation reduced the risk of low birth weight and perinatal death by 10 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

You can count on Good Fats 101 to keep you up-to-date on the latest research developments in 2019. Be sure to visit the Good Fats 101 Research Section and come back to the blog to see what we’re sharing!

 

Sources

  1. Vannice G, Rasmussen H. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: dietary fatty acids for healthy adults. JAND. 2014;114(1):136-153.
  2. Mozaffarian D, et al. Plasma Phospholipid Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Older Adults. Ann Intern Med. 2013 Apr;158(7):515-25.
  3. A Quantitative Assessment of the Net Effects on Fetal Neurodevelopment from Eating Commercial Fish (As Measured by IQ and also by Early Age Verbal Development in Children). 2014. Available at https://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Metals/ucm396789.htm.