A combination of regular doses of fish oil and gym exercises improved the muscular strength of a group of women in their late sixties by 20 per cent in a new study.
A control group who took part in the twice-weekly, 30-minute exercise sessions but did not take fish oil increased their muscle power by 11 per cent.
Over the course of the 12-week study, those who took the fish oils also made noticeably larger improvements in tests of their balance, walking speed and time taken to get up from a chair.
Speaking at the British Science Festival, researchers from Aberdeen University said the difference could be down to the effects of DHA and EPA, types of Omega 3 fatty acid found in fish oil that have anti-inflammatory properties.
As a normal part of ageing, muscle size reduces by between 0.5 per cent and two per cent a year in older people, a condition known as sarcopenia.
After our mid-thirties our body’s ability to build muscle through exercise alone begins to diminish, meaning it is difficult for older people to resist muscle wastage.
Researchers said the fish oils could work by combating the low-level inflammation that is typical in older people and hampers the ability of the muscles to build power and mass.
Dr Stuart Gray said: “We’re trying to make older muscle adapt like younger muscle, and that’s where we think fish oil can come in.”