Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Muscle Mass, Muscle Strength and Muscle Performance among the Elderly: A Meta-Analysis

Nutrients. 2020 Dec 4;12(12):3739. doi: 10.3390/nu12123739.


There is increasing evidence showing the role of fatty acids and their derived lipid intermediates in the regulation of skeletal muscle mass synthesis and function. However, the role of omega-3 fatty acids remains unclear. Therefore, we conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate the potential effects of omega-3 fatty acids on sarcopenia-related performances among the elderly. Eligible literature and reports of randomized controlled trials were comprehensively searched from the PubMed, Cochrane Library, ClinicalTrials.gov, and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) databases until July 2018. A total of 10 articles were available for the meta-analysis. There were minor benefits for muscle mass gain (0.33 kg; 95% CI: 0.05, 0.62) and timed up and go performance (-0.30 s; 95% CI: -0.43, -0.17). Subgroup analyses regarding muscle mass and walk speed indicated that omega-3 fatty acid supplements at more than 2 g/day may contribute to muscle mass gain (0.67 kg; 95% CI: 0.16, 1.18) and improve walking speed, especially for those receiving more than 6 months of intervention (1.78 m/sec; 95% CI: 1.38, 2.17). Our findings provide some insight into the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on muscle mass, especially for those taking supplements at more than 2 g/day. We also observed that a long period of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation may improve walking speed.

Keywords: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA); elderly; n-3 PUFAs; omega-3 fatty acid; sarcopenia.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Gait / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Physical Functional Performance
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sarcopenia / prevention & control*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid