Can Omega-3s Prevent Loss of Lean Body Mass With Age?

Most people begin to lose lean body mass around the age of thirty, and by the time they enter their senior years, they’ve lost a substantial amount of muscle. This loss of lean body mass not only slows down metabolism but leads to increasing frailty. Fortunately, resistance exercise helps to offset some of this muscle loss. Now a new study shows taking omega-3 fatty acids helps to preserve lean body mass too.

Omega-3s to Prevent Loss of Lean Body Mass

The medical term for the loss of lean body mass with aging is sarcopenia. Older people with sarcopenia have reduced muscle strength and mass – and they’re at higher risk for falling. This reduces their quality of life, and many become frail from loss of muscle tissue and end up in nursing homes. Almost half of all people over the age of 65 are victims of sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia and Aging: Can Omega-3s Prevent Sarcopenia?

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine gave 16 senior adults four grams a day of a prescription omega-3 supplement or corn oil for two months. At the end of the two month study, they discovered that the seniors who took the omega-3 supplement activated a pathway needed for muscle cell growth, which would lead to the synthesis of new muscle proteins. From this they concluded that taking an omega-3 supplement could help seniors offset the sarcopenia associated with aging.

Because this is a small study, it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions about omega-3s and sarcopenia. On the other hand, there are few downsides to omega-3s – and most people don’t get enough of them in their diet. These fats found naturally in fatty fish are heart healthy, reduce inflammation and, possibly, lower the risk of some types of cancer. But because they alter platelet function, people with bleeding disorders shouldn’t take them.

Omega-3s to Prevent Loss of Lean Body Mass: The Bottom Line?

Resistance exercise to build strength and preserve lean body mass is still the best way to prevent sarcopenia, but combining strength training with omega-3 supplements could offer additional benefits. Most seniors can safely take part in resistance training under the watchful eye of a trainer, and it can improve the quality of their life. Don’t underestimate the power of exercise combined with omega-3s to make life a little better for aging seniors.

References: “Omega-3s May Counter Degenerative Muscle Loss”


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