Eating more nuts and seeds linked to a longer life

LONDON — Fatty acids coming from nuts, seeds, and plant oils may be the key to living a longer and healthier life, a new study reveals. An international team finds that a higher intake of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) lowers the risk of death from all causes.

ALA is a type of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid in soybean, nuts, canola oils, and flaxseed. Until now, the connection between ALA and longevity has been unclear. The new report finds a noticeable benefit of eating more nuts and seeds in terms of cardiovascular disease risk and and coronary heart disease risk.

Researchers looked at 41 studies published between 1991 and 2021 which examined the health benefits of alpha linolenic acid. These reports analyzed ALA levels in the patients’ blood and examined their risk of death from nature causes, heart disease, and cancer.

These studies included around 120,000 adults between 18 and 98 years-old and monitored their health for two to 32 years. Researchers also accounted for influential factors such as age, weight, smoking habits, alcohol use, and physical activity. The results show that high consumption of ALA has a connection to a 10-percent lower risk of death from all causes. Cardiovascular disease risk dropped by eight percent and coronary heart disease risk dropped by 11 percent.

Eating more nuts and a link to cancer?

The study did find that a higher intake of ALA did point to a slightly higher risk of developing and dying from cancer. The team notes that future studies will need to confirm this potential connection.

Overall, however, the more of this fatty acid you consume, the better it appears to be for your health. Study authors find that a one-gram increase of ALA each day has a link to a five-percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. That amounts to an extra tablespoon of canola oil or half an ounce of walnut oil each day.

The researchers do note that their findings are only observational, meaning they don’t know yet how exactly ALA lowers the risk of death — there is simply a noticeable connection between having more nuts and seeds and a longer life.

More good news for omega-3 fans

The research team concludes that this study continues to add to the evidence that omega-3 fatty acids play a key role in human health.

Previous studies have found that consuming more omega-3 may improve heart health, reduce cancer risk, and even stabilize memory ability in Alzheimer’s patients. Other reports have found that omega-3 may also benefit children dealing with asthma.

“Further studies should examine the association between ALA and a wider range of causes of death to provide a more comprehensive assessment of the potential health effects of ALA as well as to examine whether specific foods rich in ALA are differentially associated with mortality from cancer and other causes,” the researchers conclude in the media release.

The findings appear in The BMJ.

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