Skeletal muscle is a plastic tissue capable of adapting and mal-adapting to physical activity and diet. The response of skeletal muscle to adaptive stimuli, such as exercise, can be modified by the prior nutritional status of the muscle. The influence of nutrition on skeletal muscle has the potential to substantially impact physical function and whole body metabolism. Animal and cell based models show that omega-3 fatty acids, in particular those of marine origin, can influence skeletal muscle metabolism. Furthermore, recent human studies demonstrate that omega-3 fatty acids of marine origin can influence the exercise and nutritional response of skeletal muscle. These studies show that the prior omega-3 status influences not only the metabolic response of muscle to nutrition, but also the functional response to a period of exercise training. Omega-3 fatty acids of marine origin therefore have the potential to alter the trajectory of a number of human diseases including the physical decline associated with aging. We explore the potential molecular mechanisms by which omega-3 fatty acids may act in skeletal muscle, considering the n-3/n-6 ratio, inflammation and lipidomic remodelling as possible mechanisms of action. Finally, we suggest some avenues for further research to clarify how omega-3 fatty acids may be exerting their biological action in skeletal muscle.
Keywords: fish oil; hypertrophy and diabetes; omega-3 fatty acids; skeletal muscle.