McMaster University researchers looked at whether twice daily consumption of a supplement containing whey protein, creatine, calcium, vitamin D, and n-3 PUFA (rich in eicosapentanoic acid [EPA] and docosahexanoic acid [DHA]) could stimulate gains in strength, physical function, lean body mass, and metabolic health in a group of healthy older men following 6 weeks of supplementation.
Some details: oil supplementation was EPA 1400 mg and DHA 890 mg while the control was safflower oil. The control powder for the drink was simply described as carbohydrate yet was 55 less calories than the whey, creatine and Vitamin D mix being studied. Participants consumed two drinks daily: 1 h after breakfast, and again 1h prior to retiring to bed. Strength measurements were made after 6 weeks of supplementation and then 12 weeks later after they all took part in the same exercise regimen.
Participants showed notable improvement in muscle health and overall strength both before and after the addition of an exercise regimen.
Protein supplementation is not new. Eating protein and exercising favors muscle mass, but I think the more interesting takeaway is that this study adds to a growing body of evidence that Omega-3 fats are not just good for inflammation, but encourage muscle mass and cardiac function. This occurs in healthy younger and older adults, even in the setting of cancer.
A whey protein-based multi-ingredient nutritional supplement stimulates gains in lean body mass and strength in healthy older men: A randomized controlled trial.
Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Feb;93(2):402-12. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.005611. Epub 2010 Dec 15.
Omega-3 fatty acids in cancer. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013 Mar;16(2):156-61.
Omega 3 fatty acids are also good for reducing so called metabolic syndrome. So supplementation offers many benefits and should seriously be considered by everybody, but especially older adults. A good amount should be 1000 mg each of DHA and EPA.
Check your supplement’s numbers, not just the total Omega-3/PUFA amount as you may see on the front of the label. You might be surprised!
My fish oil is double concentrated but still, requires three large capsules to meet those amounts. Given these numbers, I take Omega-3 Black on top of fish oil. This formulation provides ETA, a precursor for EPA, but yet found to have its own benefits. It inhibits inflammation directly by modulating COX enzymes, the same enzyme targeted by anti-inflammatories. Perhaps this inhibition occurs because it looks so much like its omega-6 incarnation, arachidonic acid?