In 2008, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published three studies investigating the role of EPA and DHA omega-3s in elderly populations.
The results showed that low levels of EPA and DHA Omega-3 fatty acids increased the risk of death from all causes, and also accelerated cognitive decline in the elderly. Now, based on the results of a new study, also published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there is one more omega-3 benefit elderly patients can add to the list.
Increased muscle volume and strength
Sarcopenia is the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength as a result of the ageing process and it typically accelerates around age 75. However, it may begin as early as the age of 65 and can contribute to frailty and the likelihood of falls and fractures in older adults.
According to the results of the latest study, participants who took a daily omega-3 supplement for six months had an increased muscle volume of 3.6 per cent and a 4 per cent increase in muscle strength.
During this double-blind, randomized controlled trial, the researchers recruited 60 healthy older people aged between 60 and 85. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either omega-3s (1.86 g per day of EPA and 1.5 grams per day of DHA) or corn oil for six months.
The results showed that, for the 44 people who completed the study, participants in the omega-3 group experienced increases in thigh muscle volume (3.6 per cent), handgrip strength (2.3 kg), and lower- and upper-body strength (4 per cent), compared with the control group.
Commenting on the study’s findings, Dr. Harry Rice, PhD, Vice President of regulatory and scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), said: “Given the loss of muscle mass and function inherent to ageing, the results suggest that fish oil supplementation could provide a true clinical benefit – prolonged independence.”
He added that along with the well-known cardiovascular benefits associated with EPA and DHA omega-3 intake, being able to hold onto your independence at a time when quality of life tends to decline for many is an added incentive.
The researchers said that although their results are positive, additional studies are needed to determine whether long-term omega-3 therapy can sufficiently slow down age-related loss of muscle mass and function.
However, you can start optimising your omega-3 intake today, because this essential nutrient will not only boost your mental health and brain function, it will also protect you against coronary heart disease and stroke, autoimmune disorders and cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate, to mention but a few.
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American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.105833, “Fish oil derived omega-3 PUFA therapy increases muscle mass and function in healthy older adults”, Authors: G.I. Smith, S. Julliand, D.N. Reeds, D.R. Sinacore, S. Klein, B. Mittendorfer