Fish-oil supplementation may enhance the effects of strength training in elderly women

February 24, 2012

The inclusion of fish oil supplementation into strength training may cause greater improvements in muscle strength and functional capacity, suggests a new Brazilian study.

To investigate the effect of fish oil supplementation and strength training on the neuromuscular system (muscle strength and functional capacity), 45 elderly women (mean age 64 years) were randomly assigned either to perform a strength training program for 90 days, to perform the same training program plus a daily fish oil supplementation of 2 grams (including 360 mg eicosapentaenoic acid and 240 mg docosahexaenoic acid) for 90 days, or to take fish oil supplements already 60 days before starting the 90-day exercise program (1). The study results showed that the participants who took fish oil supplements had a greater improvement in muscle strength than those who only did exercise. However, there was no significant difference in muscle strength between the participants who took supplements for three months and those who did the five-month intake program.

The researchers concluded that strength training increases muscle strength in elderly women and that the inclusion of fish oil supplementation may cause greater improvements in muscle strength and functional capacity. However, these results would need to be confirmed in larger studies.

Muscle force and functional capacity generally decrease with age, although strength training can reverse, attenuate or both reverse and attenuate this effect. Fish oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, has been shown to play a role in the plasma membrane and cell function of muscles (2). Thus, because fish oil supplementation improves both cardiac muscle contractility and nerve conduction velocity, scientists have hypothesized that it may potentiate strength-training effects on skeletal muscles (3).


1. Rodacki C. L. N. et al. Fish-oil supplementation enhances the effects of strength training in elderly women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012; 95:428–436.

2. Johnson E. J. et al. Cognitive findings of an exploratory trial of docosahexaenoic acid and lutein supplementation in older women. Nutr Neurosci. 2008; 11:75–83.

3. Egert S. and Stehle P. Impact of n23 fat acids on endothelial function: results from human interventions studies. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011; 14:121–131.