A Randomized Trial of the Effects of Dietary n3-PUFAs on Skeletal Muscle Function and Acute Exercise Response in Healthy Older Adults

Hawley E. Kunz, Kelly L. Michie, Kevin J. Gries, Xiaoyan Zhang, Zachary C. Ryan, Ian R. Lanza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Skeletal muscle is critical for maintaining mobility, independence, and metabolic health in older adults. However, a common feature of aging is the progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and function, which is often accompanied by mitochondrial impairments, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance. Exercise improves muscle strength, mitochondrial health, and cardiorespiratory fitness, but older adults often exhibit attenuated anabolic responses to acute exercise. Chronic inflammation associated with aging may contribute to this “anabolic resistance” and therapeutic interventions that target inflammation may improve exercise responsiveness. To this end, we conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine the effect of 6 months of dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n3-PUFA) supplementation on skeletal muscle function (mass, strength), mitochondrial physiology (respiration, ATP production, ROS generation), and acute exercise responsiveness at the level of the muscle (fractional synthesis rate) and the whole-body (amino acid kinetics) in healthy older adults. When compared with a corn oil placebo (n = 33; 71.5 ± 4.8 years), older adults treated with 4 g/day n3-PUFA (n = 30; 71.4 ± 4.5 years) exhibited modest but significant increases in muscle strength (3.1 ± 14.7% increase in placebo vs. 7.5 ± 14.1% increase in n3-PUFA; p = 0.039). These improvements in muscle strength with n3-PUFA supplementation occurred in the absence of any effects on mitochondrial function and a minor attenuation of the acute response to exercise compared to placebo. Together, these data suggest modest benefits of dietary n3-PUFAs to muscle function in healthy older adults. Future studies may elucidate whether n3-PUFA supplementation improves the exercise response in elderly individuals with co-morbidities, such as chronic inflammatory disease or sarcopenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3537
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • aging
  • anabolic resistance
  • exercise
  • n3-PUFA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


Dive into the research topics of 'A Randomized Trial of the Effects of Dietary n3-PUFAs on Skeletal Muscle Function and Acute Exercise Response in Healthy Older Adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this