Sarcopenia can rob you of muscle strength as you age. Strength training is the only recognized treatment for the medical condition. Now, new research presented last week at the International Conference on Frailty and Sarcopenia Research in Miami suggests that adding fish oil to your treatment plan could improve your outcome.
“My main area of research now is intervention studies on combining exercise approaches with some food supplementation to improve sarcopenia and frailty,” explained Dr. Eduardo Ferriolli, MD., Ph.D, Department of Medicine, Ribeirão Preto Medical School, University of São Paulo, and a co-author on the study.
“We’ve been working with fish oil supplementation. We have shown that when you exercise and take tablets with fish oil you get improvement in muscle strength that is better than exercising only,” said Dr. Ferriolli in an interview with StrongPath at the conference.
In the 14-week study, a group of women aged 65 years and older and who had been diagnosed with sarcopenia were given two grams of fish oil at lunch and at dinner. Another group of older, sarcopenic women received placebo sunflower oil supplements. Both groups took part in supervised strength training three times a week. The women were tested for muscle volume and strength before the study and at its conclusion.
The group given the fish oil supplements showed a 13.5 percent increase in muscle volume, compared to the women in the placebo group, which showed a 5.09 percent increase. Muscle strength in the fish oil group increased 22.1 percent in the fish oil group versus 7.12 percent in the control group. The conclusion: Fish oil supplements improve the effects of strength training in sarcopenic older women, thus improving their sarcopenic status.
Dr. Ferriolli told StrongPath that the findings were important for older adults because of some concerns in the medical community that high doses of protein could be harmful for you. “We are seeing some controversy in terms of protein supplementation, that there may be some risks that have not been understood well.” Recent studies have shown that high amounts of protein could increase glucose intolerance or could impact kidney function.
“We’re not very sure of how much protein someone need to eat to keep fit or improve sarcopenia,” he said, adding that he believes that early intervention is actually the key to living a stronger life as you age. “If you exercise since your childhood and eat properly, proteins and everything else, it’s favorable for your health in older age.”
“If someone is getting older, or if they’re falling down to lower levels of energy and muscle mass or strength, we really need to look at this and say now we need to do something because this person is getting frail or is getting sarcopenic. We really need to see the person when things are starting to get wrong so you can intervene early. That’s the best thing to do.”
Watch Dr. Ferriolli’s complete interview here.