People take omega-3 fish oil for a number of reasons extending far beyond heart health; although heart benefits are the number one reason. Because of the rich diversity of science behind omega-3 fish oils, researchers have uncovered—and continue to uncover almost daily—new uses and applications for this amazing nutrient. I recently blogged about a less-commonly reported benefit: improved muscle function in elderly women.

A recent study presented at the British Science Festival is taking these benefits even further. The pilot study found that people taking fish oil improved muscle strength by 20 percent over 12 weeks when compared to those people taking placebo, who experienced an 11 percent increase.

The pilot study will lead to further research that will look at the effects of fish oil supplementation on muscle strength and other health measures in men and women over age 65. “We will monitor changes in muscle mass, volume, and fat content in the participants using MRI; insulin sensitivity and inflammation in blood samples; and changes in protein synthesis and molecular signaling in muscle biopsies,” noted Stuart Gray, lead researcher.

Muscle loss that comes with age, also known as sarcopenia, can be a significant hindrance to health as people get older. Muscles naturally decrease in size by about 0.5 and 2 percent each year, and it becomes more difficult to increase muscle mass with exercise alone as we age. I’ll report when I hear of more research for muscle health in old age. In the meantime, keep exercising and taking your fish oil.