The alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) fats are linked to longevity, according to a new scientific paper.

Iran PressSci & Tech: We've come a long way from the '90s when shoppers were filling their carts with everything low-fat. But the nutritional intel around fats is still confusing. There are different types of dietary fat, which all affect the body differently.

Here's the TL; DR version of what you need to know: Both saturated and unsaturated fats have nutritional benefits, but the type of fats that have been scientifically shown to benefit the body the most are omega-3 fatty acids. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Well+Good reported.

EPA and DHA fats are both found primarily in fish while ALA are plant-based fats, found in foods including vegetable oils, nuts, and leafy greens. (Although it is also found in some animal fat, too.)

All of these types of omega-3s benefit the body in many ways, but a new scientific paper recently published in the British Medical Journal specifically linked ALA fats to longevity. Researchers analyzed 41 different studies that looked into the connection between consuming ALA plant-based fats and lifespan, including the risk for developing cardiovascular disease (the number one cause of death in the US). 

Overall, data from over a million people over the course of 32 years was analyzed. The researchers found that eating high amounts of ALA fats compared with low intake was significantly associated with a lower risk of deaths from all causes—that's pretty major!

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"ALA fats are precursors to eicosanoids [signaling molecules] which regulate many body functions, like blood clotting, gene expression, and inhibiting inflammation," registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, RD, says as to why this type of fat in particular is so intricately linked to longevity. 

When high levels of inflammation occur in the body for extended periods of time, it can lead to life-threatening diseases and cognitive decline. That's why keeping it in check is so important—and ALA fats can help with that.

Here's more good news about ALA fats: Rifkin says they're found in many foods that are likely already a part of your regular diet. "ALA fats are very commonly found in meals due to their presence in popular cooking oils, like soybean and canola," she says. "ALA is also found in soybean products like tofu, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, and flaxseed oil." 

The National Institute of Health recommends consuming at least one gram of ALA fats every day. This is pretty easy to do: One tablespoon of canola oil has more than a gram. (A tablespoon of flaxseed oil has a full seven grams.) An ounce of walnuts has more than double the recommended daily requirement, too.


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