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Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce muscle loss in older adults - research highlight!

Main Points:

  • Loss of muscle mass is one of the main causes of loss of independence and function in older adults.

  • Evidence shows that supplementing with omega-3 fats can help older adults build muscle and improve function.

Did you know that one of the leading causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults is the loss of muscle mass and strength? Factors contributing to this loss of muscle include poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and inflammation.

If you remember my post on the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio, then you know that omega-3 fatty acids are involved in many physiological processes and are essential for human health. Some studies show evidence that omega-3 fatty acids are involved in the making of muscle and in muscle function. As a review, omega- 3 fats include:

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in plant oils like flaxseed oil. DHA is found in fish and seafood. The human body can convert some ALA into EPA and then to DHA, but the process is very inefficient.

In this research highlight post, I am discussing the findings of a recent meta-analysis suggesting that omega-3 fats are beneficial in preventing or treating muscle loss associated with aging.

The study analyzed data from 10 randomized controlled intervention trials looking at the effects of increased omega-3 fatty acid intake on skeletal muscle mass, muscle strength or performance. More than 550 adults aged 60 years or older were included in the studies. The trials provided omega-3 fatty acids from a variety of sources, including fish oil, flaxseed oil, and healthy dietary patterns that adhered to a low omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Doses ranged from 0.16 to 2.6 grams per day of EPA, and from 0-1.8 grams of DHA. One study provided 14 grams per day of ALA. The studies lasted between 10 and 24 weeks.

The participants saw increases in muscle mass of about 11 oz for those taking less than 2 g of omega-3s per day and increases of 1.8 lbs. for those taking at least 2 g per day or more. The studies also showed improvements in physical performance in the omega-3 supplemented groups.

These findings suggest that supplemental omega-3 fatty acids improve muscle mass and physical performance in older adults.

One of main missions of Forever Fit Life is helping people implement lifestyle changes that will increase health and keep people healthy long-term. Our bodies are our “forever home” while we are on this earth. Building and keeping muscle is one of the most important things that you can do to accomplish this. This study might shed a little light on a simple, yet effective action you can take today to help!


Huang YH, Chiu WC, Hsu YP, Lo YL, Wang YH. Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Muscle Mass, Muscle Strength and Muscle Performance among the Elderly: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2020;12(12):3739. Published 2020 Dec 4. doi:10.3390/nu12123739


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