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Omega-3 fatty acids and protein metabolism: enhancement of anabolic interventions for sarcopenia

Di Girolamo, Filippo Giorgioa; Situlin, Robertaa; Mazzucco, Saraa; Valentini, Robertob; Toigo, Gabrielec; Biolo, Giannia

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care: March 2014 - Volume 17 - Issue 2 - p 145–150
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000032
LIPID METABOLISM AND THERAPY: Edited by Philip C. Calder and Richard J. Deckelbaum

Purpose of review The increased age observed in most countries, with the associated higher rates of chronic illnesses and cancer, and a diffuse sedentary lifestyle, will increase the number of patients with clinically relevant anabolic resistance, sarcopenia and its complications. The need for solutions to this major health issue is, therefore, pressing.

Recent findings The metabolic derangements and other consequences associated with sarcopenia can be slowed or even prevented by specific nutritional interventions. New evidence is available about the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acid dietary supplementation to improve protein metabolism and counteract anabolic resistance through indirect effects. Studies show that the anabolic stimuli from substrates (e.g. amino acids or proteins), hormones (e.g. insulin) and/or physical activity in skeletal muscle can be enhanced by long-term fish oil administration.

Summary The review of data from recent studies on this topic suggests that dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, in association with an anabolic stimulus, could potentially provide a safe, simple and low-cost intervention to counteract anabolic resistance and sarcopenia. This intervention may contribute to prevent cachexia and disabilities. Supplementation should be given in the earlier stages of sarcopenia (e.g. precachexia). Further research should, however, be performed to better understand the mechanisms involved and the best dosage and timing of administration.

aClinica Medica AOUTS, Department of Medical Sciences, University of Trieste

bOrthopedic Unit AOUTS

cGeriatric Unit AOUTS, Trieste, Italy

Correspondence to Professor Gianni Biolo, MD, PhD, ‘Clinica Medica, AOUTS’, Department of Medical Sciences, University of Trieste, Cattinara University Hospital, Strada di Fiume 447, 34149 Trieste, Italy. Tel: +39 040 399 4532; fax: +39 040 399 4593; e-mail:

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins