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Fish oil supplementation makes over 60s more muscled and stronger

People over the age of 60 can increase their muscle mass and strength by taking fish-oil supplements. Nutritionists at Washington University School of Medicine wrote about this in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The researchers did not get their subjects to do weight training.

The researchers divided several score healthy men and women aged between 60 and 85 into two groups. One group was given a placebo containing corn oil [Control] for six months; the other took 4 fish-oil capsules daily [n3 PUFA].

Fish oil supplementation makes over 60s more muscled and stronger
The subjects in the fish-oil group consumed a daily total of 1.86 g EPA and 1.5 g DHA. You can also get this amount of fish fatty acids by eating 200-400 g salmon, herring or sardines.

The subjects took 2 capsules at breakfast, and another 2 with their evening meal.

The researchers used GlaxoSmithKline's clinical n-3 preparation Lovaza. This contains ethyl fatty acids. GlaxoSmithKline provided the supplements free of charge, but all other costs were covered by the American government.

The subjects' bodyweight did not change during the six months that the experiment lasted. What did change was the subjects' muscle size. The scans showed that this increased significantly.

The increase was modest, but you need to bear in mind that the muscles of the subjects in the control group weakened and atrophied during the period of the experiment.

White bars: after 3 months; grey bars: after 6 months.

Fish oil supplementation makes over 60s more muscled and stronger

The supplementation gave the subjects more strength in their hands; they were able to exert more force when closing springs in their hands. In addition, the total amount of kilograms that the subjects could manage to shift once when doing leg presses, chest presses, leg extensions and leg curls increased as a result of taking fish-oil supplements. By the way, the subjects did no weight training.

Fish oil supplementation makes over 60s more muscled and stronger
In 2010 the researchers also published results from this project. They showed that fish-oil supplementation stimulated anabolic processes at the molecular level in the over 60s. The present study shows that these effects actually result in more muscle mass and strength.

"In summary, results from our study show that fish oil–derived n–3 PUFA therapy has clinically important muscle anabolic and physical performance–enhancing effects in older adults", the researchers wrote.

"Additional studies are needed to determine whether long-term n–3 PUFA therapy can sufficiently slow the declines in muscle mass and function that normally occur in older adults to significantly delay or even prevent sarcopenia and a loss of physical independence or cure it in already sarcopenic persons."

Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jul;102(1):115-22.

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