Researchers found that resistance training can help with muscle loss. But when coupled with fish oil supplementation, blood pressure also dropped, boosting the benefits of the exercise.
These findings could help medical professionals develop intervention programs for adults with sarcopenia, as well as those with hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions.
"Overall, our findings would provide meaningful implications for future clinical research to develop effective intervention programs for enhancing functional independence as well as cardiovascular health in older populations," the researchers wrote.
Muscle loss leads to reduced strength. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 2011–2012 estimated that about five percent of adults aged 60 and over had weak muscle strength. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention links muscle weakness to impaired mobility and mortality in older adults. Thus, it is important to prevent or slow down muscle loss.
In the study, the researchers examined the effects of daily fish oil supplementation during 12 weeks of programmed resistance training on physical function and blood pressure.
They sampled 28 healthy older adults with aged 66 years and above. Eighteen of the participants were female, while the rest were male. They were randomly assigned to either a group that had resistance training and fish oil supplementation, a group that had resistance training and placebo capsules, or a group that had placebo capsules but no training.
The team conducted tests at baseline and 12 weeks later, which measured hand-grip strength, physical function, timed up and go, six-minute walk and blood pressure.
Results show that the two experimental groups displayed improvements in physical function while the control group performed poorer in time up and go and decreased their hand-grip strength. Meanwhile, only the group that had both resistance training and fish oil supplementation lowered their blood pressure levels, suggesting that the fish oil capsules have positive effects on blood pressure.
Given these findings, the researchers concluded that resistance training and fish oil could be used as a therapeutic intervention for boosting muscular and vascular health, respectively.
Harry Rice, vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s, said that the benefits of exercise on health have been known for years.
But he added, "What's really exciting about the results from the current research is that they suggest the addition of fish oil can boost those benefits." Rice was not part of the study.
Fish oil is fat or oil extracted from the tissue of oily fish such as herring and salmon. But it can also be found in the liver of other fishes.
It is rich in essential vitamins and nutrients, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, the types of omega-3s found in fish oil offer greater health benefits than the omega-3s found in some plant sources.
The main omega-3s in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, DHA, while the omega-3 in plant sources is primarily alpha-linolenic acid, ALA. Both types are beneficial for health, although studies show that EPA and DHA have more health benefits. (Related: More Research Highlights the Broad Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fish Oils and Fatty Fish.)
Through its rich omega-3 content, fish oil is found to be good for the brain, skin, eyes and bones, among others.
Learn more about the benefits of fish oil at FishOils.news.