Fish oil and resistance training may combat sarcopenia: Study

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / onairjiw
© Getty Images / onairjiw

Related tags sarcopenia Fish oil Aging Muscle damage

Fish oil supplements may enhance the benefits of resistance training in older people and help combat the “age-related alterations in strength and physical function associated with activities of daily living”, says a new study.

Researchers from New Mexico State University, California State Polytechnic University and Florida Atlantic University reported that grip strength, physical function and blood pressure in older adults are impacted while taking fish oil (FO) supplements and participating in resistance training (RT).

“These outcomes suggest chronic RT and FO treatment as a therapeutic intervention for improving the muscular and vascular function, respectively, of older adults,” ​they wrote in the journal Sports​.

“Overall, our findings would provide meaningful implications for future clinical research to develop effective intervention programs for enhancing functional independence as well as cardiovascular health in older populations.”

“Really exciting”

Commenting independently on the study’s findings, Harry Rice, PhD, VP of regulatory & scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), told us: “The benefits for older adults to engage in exercise have been known and touted for many years, but what's really exciting about the results from the current research is that they suggest the addition of fish oil can boost those benefits.

“In addition, the results corroborate the omega-3 heart health benefit of blood pressure lowering,”​ added Dr Rice.

Study details

Over a 12-week period, researchers studied 28 healthy older adults (10 males, 18 females; 66.5 ± 5.0 years) who were randomly assigned to three groups: Control (CON, no RT and placebo capsules), resistance training (RT, plus placebo capsules) and resistance training with fish oil (RTFO, RT plus fish oil supplement providing daily doses of EPA o 2,100 mg and DHA of 720 mg.

Handgrip strength, physical function, timed up and go, a six-minute walk, 30-second sit-to-stand and blood pressure were all assessed at the start of the study and again after 12 weeks of intervention.  

Upon completion of the study, researchers concluded that 12-weeks of programmed resistance training slowed normal muscle mass decline and enhanced physical function related to day-to-day activities, while fish oil consumption combined with programmed resistance training improved blood pressure in older adults.

The report suggests older adults could use resistance training and fish oil as a therapeutic intervention for improving the muscular and vascular function.


While the findings are limited and left somewhat open-ended, they could prove significant for those experiencing sarcopenia (age-related loss of muscle mass). After age 30, as much as 3-5 percent of muscle can be lost per decade. This results in weaker and less mobile seniors who are more likely to fracture​ a bone if they fall. A 2015 report from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research​ found that people with sarcopenia had 2.3 times the risk of having a low-trauma fracture from a fall, such as a broken hip, collarbone, leg, arm, or wrist. Furthermore, a broken bone from a fall could lead to prolonged recovery time. As reduced muscle mass increases, so could seniors physical independence, thus negatively impacting their quality of life.

Source: Sports
2019, 7​(7), 167; doi: 10.3390/sports7070167
“Chronic Fish Oil Consumption with Resistance Training Improves Grip Strength, Physical Function, and Blood Pressure in Community-Dwelling Older Adults”
Authors: S-R. Lee et al.

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