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Study Finds Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency Kills Nearly 100,000 Americans Annually

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health recently conducted a study to estimate the number of deaths in America due to preventable causes.

The study was published in the April 2009 issue of the Public Library of Science Medicine Journal.

The study focused on 12 dietary, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors such as alcohol use, smoking, obesity, low omega-3 intake and high trans fat intake.

The researchers retrieved data regarding exposure to these preventable risk factors from U.S. national health surveys.  They also obtained data on deaths from different diseases for 2005 from the U.S. National Health Center for Health Statistics.

Using the collected data, together with knowledge gained from previously published studies, they created a mathematical formula to accurately estimate the number of deaths due to each of the 12 preventable risk factors.

They found that among these 12 risk factors, omega-3 essential fatty acid deficiency ranked as the 6th highest killer of Americans, with 72,000 to 96,000 preventable deaths yearly.  Omega-3 deficiency proved to be even deadlier than high trans fat intake.

The factors that beat out omega-3 essential fatty acids were not surprising. Tobacco smoking took first place with 436,000 to 500,000 preventable deaths, followed by high blood pressure (372,000 to 414,000), obesity (188,000 to 237,000), physical inactivity (164,000 to 222,000) and high-salt intake (97,000-107,000).

The researchers note that although the many health benefits of omega-3s are becoming more apparent, it still came as a surprise that something as simple as omega-3 supplementation could prevent nearly 100,000 deaths a year.

The researchers hope these findings will increase awareness about the omega-3 deficiency in the western diet.

Supplements are one way to avoid omega-3 deficiency; be sure you find a quality supplement high in the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.  You can also get omega-3s by eating more fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, lake trout, and albacore tuna.

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