September 28, 2022

New review investigates the effects of omega-3 supplementation on skeletal muscle in older adults

Aging is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation, sarcopenia and functional decline. The loss of muscle mass between the ages of 40 and 80 is approximately between 30% and 60% and is associated with disability, illness, and death. Age-related musculoskeletal decline is a significant risk for falls in the elderly.

Exercise and nutritional supplementation are currently recommended as preventative against the loss of muscle and muscle strength, however, most of the nutritional studies have focused on protein supplementation. Since sarcopenia is associated with increased inflammation and impaired glucose homeostasis, omega-3-fatty have also been investigated.

According to a new review published today in Nutrients, researchers investigated the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on alone and combined with resistance exercise on skeletal muscle in the elderly.

This systemic review and meta-analysis included 15 randomized controlled trials and one randomized, non-controlled trial consisting of 2,438 participants (1,660 females, 778 males). Dosing ranged from as little as 230 mg of EPA/DHA up to 5 grams of fish oil and one study used 14 grams of flaxseed oil. The study durations ranged from 6 weeks to 36 months.

As a result, this review demonstrated that omega-3 supplementation does not impact lean tissue mass but does improve lower body strength as wells as lower body functional performance. Supplementation was effective when taken alone, but less when taken in conjunction with resistance training. No impacts were observed for walking speed.

There finding are significant as lower body strength is preferentially affected by aging and sarcopenic individuals suffer from reduced functional performance. Tests such as the timed-up-and-go and sit-to-stand test were improved with omega-3 supplementation and are important predictors of functional ability in older adults.

Omega-3 fatty acids are incorporated into the cell membranes and improve the ability to recruit motor units enhancing the neuronal activation of muscle.

These findings demonstrate a role of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on muscle mass. Other nutrients to consider patients with sarcopenia include vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin C, collagen, BCAAs, tocotrienols, and probiotics.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Source: Cornish S, Cordingley D, et al. Effects of Omega-3 Supplementation Alone and Combined with Resistance Exercise on Skeletal Muscle in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients 2022, 14(11), 2222.