'Intriguing': Fish oil supplements linked to improved exercise economy

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

'Intriguing': Fish oil supplements linked to improved exercise economy

Related tags Red blood cell

Daily supplements of an EPA-rich fish oil may boost exercise economy, a predictor of endurance exercise performance, says a new study from Japan.

A daily fish oil dose of 3.6 grams for eight weeks was associated with increases in EPA and DHA levels in red blood cells (erythrocytes) and decreases in oxygen uptake (VO2) during steady-state submaximal exercise, according to findings published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry​.

“These results suggest that fish oil supplementation improves exercise economy during submaximal exercise,” ​wrote researchers from Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Ltd, The University of Tokyo, the University of Toyama, and Josai International University. “Because there is a strong relationship between exercise economy and endurance capacity, fish oil supplementation may also enhance endurance capacity by improving exercise economy.”


Harry Rice, PhD, VP of regulatory & scientific affairs, for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), told NutraIngredients-USA that he couldn’t help but be intrigued by the results because of their potential implications.

“My interpretation of the data suggests that long-chain omega-3 rich oils may potentiate the benefits of physical rehabilitation,” ​he told us. “If this is true, for some, this could be the difference between success and failure. I look forward to future research in this area.”

Study details

Led by Dr Fuminori Kawabata from Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Ltd, the researchers recruited 20 college-age males who played recreational sports and randomly assigned then to receive the EPA-rich fish oil (supplied by Nippon Suisan Kaisha) or the same quantity of medium-chain triglyceride for eight weeks.

Results showed that erythrocyte EPA and DHA levels increased significantly by 148% and 13%, respectively, after fish oil supplementation, while no such increases were observed in the control group.

Data from cycle ergometer tests indicated that there was a “negative linear correlation […] between erythrocyte EPA and whole oxygen uptake during submaximal exercise pre- and post-supplementation”​, meaning that more EPA in the red blood cells was associated with a lower oxygen uptake during the cycle tests.

“We showed that EPA-rich fish oil supplementation improves exercise economy and reduces perceived exertion in normal healthy subjects,” ​wrote the researchers. “Although the mechanisms were not fully elucidated, it is presumed that erythrocyte EPA was a key factor in the improvement.”

The study was funded by Nippon Suisan Kaisha.

Source: Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1080/09168451.2014.946392
“Supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid-rich fish oil improves exercise economy and reduces perceived exertion during submaximal steady-state exercise in normal healthy untrained men”
Authors: F. Kawabata, M. Neya, K. Hamazaki, Y. Watanabe, S. Kobayashi, T. Tsuji

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