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The FASEB Journal: Fish oil supplementation can slow muscle loss during immobilization

January 10, 2019

A study published in The FASEB Journal demonstrated that dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (or fish oils) reduced the rate at which young women lost muscle mass during a period of immobilization.

To conduct the study, McGlory and colleagues separated 20 healthy young women into two groups: an omega-3 group and a sunflower oil control group. After consuming the relevant supplement for four weeks, participants had one of their legs immobilized for two weeks using a knee brace. Following the immobilization period, participants returned to normal daily activity for a two-week recovery period.

Researchers measured leg muscle size, mass, strength, and protein synthesis (known to regulate muscle size) before and after immobilization and following the recovery period. In the omega-3 group, the amount of muscle lost during immobilization was significantly lower than that of the control group.

"This novel study suggests that young women may be able to use omega-3 supplementation to slow muscle loss and enhance recovery in situations where one of their limbs is immobilized," explained Chris McGlory, PhD, Diabetes Canada Research Fellow working with Stuart Phillips, PhD, at McMaster University's Department of Kinesiology in Ontario, Canada. "These findings could have implications for muscle recovery following surgery such as ACL reconstruction."

In addition, following two weeks of regular daily activity, the omega-3 group experienced full return of skeletal muscle volume. This finding contradicts previous work in rodents showing inhibited recovery in atrophied muscle by omega-3 fatty acids following hindlimb immobilization.

"The interplay between dietary regimes and concurrent activity levels is not often addressed as squarely as it was in this study," said Thoru Pederson, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.
This study was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Award.

The FASEB Journal is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). The world's most cited biology journal according to the Institute for Scientific Information, it has been recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century. Receive monthly highlights for The FASEB Journal; subscribe at

FASEB is composed of 30 societies with more than 130,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Our mission is to advance health and well-being by promoting research and education in biological and biomedical sciences through collaborative advocacy and service to our societies and their members.

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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