Omega-3 fats found to boost muscle synthesis in the elderly

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As we get older, we can be prone to wasting of muscle tissue (known as sarcopenia). If nothing else, sarcopenia can lead to weakness, which in turn can cause us to be immobile, prone to falls, and increasingly reliant on others for our activities of daily living. One way of preserving muscle bulk as we age is to engage is some resistance exercise on a regular basis. It’s also been found that vitamin D supplementation has the capacity to enhance muscle strength (without physical training). See here for more about this.

I was interested to read this week a study which appears to have identified another factor that has the ability to enhance muscle function – in the form of omega-3 fats [1]. In this study, elderly individuals (aged 65 or more) were supplemented with oemag-3 fats or corn oil for a period of 8 weeks. The omega-3 offered 1.86 g of EPA and 1.5 g of DHA per day. Compared to the group taking the corn oil, the omega-3 supplemented group saw improved muscle synthesis in response to increase amino acid and insulin availability (amino acids are the building blocks of muscle protein and insulin facilitates the transport of amino acids into the muscles cells).

The authors of this study point out that it is not clear from their work quite how omega-3 fats exert their beneficial effects. What seems clear, though, is that the effect is not related to omega-3 fats anti-inflammatory properties. Whatever the mechanism, this research provides yet more evidence that omega-3 fats have benefits for health.


1. Smith GI, et al. Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 15 December 2010 [epub ahead of print]

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