Over 60? Omega-3 could be the key to lean muscle for seniors, study finds

We know Omega-3 is good for your body and brain, but there may be another reason to add the fatty acids to your diet

Selection of high Omega-3 foods
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Our bodies change as we age, requiring different nutrients and vitamins than when we were younger. There's quite a lot of guidance on which supplements help you stay well, but less on how to keep fit. 

While we know that the best fish oil supplements are good for our brains and joints, researchers have found another reason to add more Omega-3 into your diet. 

According to the meta-analysis, a review of previously published papers, seniors supplementing with Omega-3 had improvements in muscle mass and lean body mass, which is the difference between total body weight and body fat weight. 

The methods used in each study vary, but the authors assessed each for effects on lean body mass, skeletal muscle mass, and mid-arm muscle circumference alongside several other measures. 

As we age, we tend to become less active, which, over time, can lead to decreases in muscle mass. This is why it's crucial to follow tips to stay active in your senior years

Omega-3 foods presented on a table

(Image credit: Getty Images)

But it's not always possible to entirely stave off these changes. The researchers noted that Omega-3 "could be useful in increasing skeletal muscle mass or strength." 

Because of the range of papers included in the analysis, they couldn't identify a specific quantity to get these effects. However, this might not be essential to still feel the benefits.

They point to a 2016 study, which found that most people do not meet the current recommendations for Omega-3 in their diet. As the studies supplemented participants, they likely ended up with more than you need to look after your general health. 

Fortunately, alongside traditional fish oil supplements, there are plenty of vegan sources of Omega-3 as well, including many seeds and nuts, if you want to feel the health and body benefits of the fatty acid. 

Interestingly, the meta-analysis didn't find a link between Omega-3 levels and muscle strength. This suggests that the fatty acid doesn't necessarily make you stronger but keeps your body in good shape. 

If you're over 60 and looking to tone up, it's worth investing in a set of the best resistance bands. These bands come in different strengths and can be used for stretching, yoga and Pilates, or weights alternatives.

Guided exercise is a great way to stay active, even if you aren't up for intense classes. Rolling out one of the best yoga mats and starting a regular practice is a low-impact way to keep your body moving. 

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.