Nutrients for muscle health: Omegas, Niacin, and ALA
Sarcopenia, age-related muscle loss, happens to everyone. We lose 3% to 5% of our muscle power every decade after our 30s. This reality of aging makes it all that more important to pay attention to muscle health at any age. Besides important proteins which provide crucial amino acids, other nutrients help with muscle health. For example, we know that CoQ10 is crucial to muscle health, especially your most important muscle, your heart.
In these studies, nutrients like omegas, niacin and alpha lipoic acid showed promise in helping to maintain muscle strength. And remember, regular weight-bearing exercise like walking and some resistance training for your muscles every week are also key to maintaining muscles. Whether you’ve been on top of your nutrient needs or just beginning, it’s never too late to pay attention to your muscle health.
Omega-3 and resistance training preserve muscle
Older adults gained strength, lowered blood pressure
Even in healthy adults, muscle tissue mass naturally declines with age at a rate of about one-half to one percent per decade. Muscle function, or strength, also declines one to two percent over that time. In this study, 28 healthy men and women, average age 66.5, took a placebo with or without resistance training, or resistance training plus 2,100 mg of EPA and 720 mg of DHA from fish oil per day.
The resistance training consisted of handgrip exercises, rising from a seated to a standing position as often as possible in 30 seconds, and measuring distance completed in a six-minute walk.
After 12 weeks, the two resistance training groups saw handgrip strength increase 5.3 percent for placebo, and 9.4 percent for fish oil, while the non-resistance-trained placebo group lost 3.9 percent handgrip strength. Only the fish oil/resistance training group saw a decrease in blood pressure, by 7.8 and 4.5 mmHg, systolic and diastolic, respectively.
Reference: Sports (Basel, Switzerland); 2019, Vol. 7, No. 7, E167, Published Online
Omega-3s improve muscle mass, increase walking speed
Study evidence is mounting that fatty acids, including omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, are critical for regulating, building, and sustaining skeletal muscle mass, and for maintaining muscle function with age. This review of 10 placebo-controlled omega-3 fish oil trials of different lengths and dosages, covered 552 participants, aged at least 60.
Overall, in trials lasting longer than six months, for those taking more than 2,000 mg of omega-3 fish oil supplements per day, participants gained an average nearly three-quarters of a pound (0.73 lb.) of lean muscle mass. In another important measure, those in the omega-3 groups were able to increase walking speed by nearly six feet (5.8 ft.) per second compared to the start of the studies.
Reference: Nutrients; 2020, Vol. 12, No. 12, 3390
Niacin slows muscle disease
Muscles require lots of energy, and depend on mitochondria—the “energy factories” in every cell—to produce it. In an inherited, or genetic muscle-wasting condition called adult-onset mitochondrial myopathy (MM), mitochondria can fail when stores of a molecule that plays a role in producing energy—nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD)—decline.
In this study, doctors compared 15 people with MM and low levels of NAD to 15 similar, but healthy people. Doctors gave the MM group increasingly large doses of niacin, from 250 mg daily per month to 1,000 mg daily at 10 months.
NAD levels for the entire MM group rose to match healthy participants, muscle strength increased, and new mitochondria formations increased.
Reference: Cell Metabolism; 2020, Vol. 31, No. 6, 1078-90
Alpha lipoic acid boosts exercise recovery
Athletes use alpha lipoic acid (ALA) to speed muscle recovery after exercise. In this study, 17 resistance- and endurance-trained male athletes started taking a placebo, or 150 mg of ALA twice per day, two days before a six-day intensive daily training program. During the six-day program, participants took one dose in the morning before, and the second immediately after, training.
On the last day, 30 minutes after the last exercise, in a single back squat, the ALA group maintained or increased its maximum lifted weight while the placebo group decreased.
Reference: Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition; 2020, Vol. 17, No. 61
BetsyHealth Note: This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. The statements within have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Consult your health care provider before taking a supplement, especially if you have a medical condition, including being pregnant or nursing, take prescription or over-the-counter medication or are planning on having surgery.
Article copyright 2021 by Natural Insights for Well Being. All rights reserved. Used with permission.