Omega-3 fatty acids: Beneficial for Muscle Health and Recovery

We are often recommended by our doctors or dieticians to include dietary supplements in our diet. The major reason being as some of the nutrients are not synthesize on their own in our body nor are commonly found in our meals.

Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial long chain essential fatty acids that support joint health, heart health, skin health, eye function, brain function and healthy triglyceride levels. These acids are not abundant in the typical Indian diet. There are mainly three types of omega-3 fatty acids:

EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID (EPA): An important fatty acid for the circulatory system. Abundant in oily fish, algae and grass. EPA has 20 carbon atoms.

DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID (DHA): An important fatty acid found in eye and brain membranes. It plays an important role for vision and brain function and is vital for healthy heart function. DHA is also found abundantly in oily fish, algae and grass. DHA has 22 carbon atoms.

ALPHA LINOLENIC ACID (ALA): Found abundantly in flax seeds, also found in walnuts and canola oil. To a degree, ALA can be converted into EPA in the body. ALA has 18 carbon atoms.

Omega-3 fatty acidis one such important nutrient which is required for the bodily functions. Usually, it is consumed in the natural or supplemental form in order to protect our heart, improve the immunity or enhance our skin health.Out of these 3, EPA and DHA are mainly and vastly studied over its health benefits.

The study done on omega-3 fatty acids recently published in FASEB journal where the 10 healthy young women were given fish oil supplements and other group of 10 healthy young women was given sunflower oil supplements. Both these groups consumed 5gms of oil in the form of supplement daily.

Both the groups consumed the supplement daily for four weeks and later, it was observed that omega-3 supplements were found to be beneficial in slowing down muscle loss. Women who had sunflower oil supplement for four weeks suffered from a 6 percent loss of lean muscle mass, while no significant changes were observed in the lean muscle mass of those who consumed omega-3 fatty acids supplement.

This function of omega-3 fatty acids is mainly because of its ability to regulate the mTOR Pathway. mTOR pathway is an important pathway in the process of cell production and growth.  This helps in increasing the muscle protein synthesis. By regulating this pathway, omega-3 can also reduce the activity of NF-κB and slow down the muscle protein breakdown.

One such study on reported cells treated with EPA (one of the important component of omega-3 fatty acids) has confirmed increase in muscle protein synthesis by 25%.

It can be a potential method to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage – possibly reducing muscle recovery time.  This is also backed up with clinical trials where the daily supplementation with fish oil capsules has shown significant reduction in muscle soreness in both the arms and lower limbs.

It is very clear that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can help promote muscle protein synthesis and reduce muscle breakdown and soreness. It not only supports the well-being of the normal individual, but it’s a great supplement for athletes too.s