Fish oil supplementation and maintaining muscle mass in chronic disease: state of the evidence

Barbara S Van der Meij, Vera Mazurak

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Providing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), in the form of fish oils, to benefit muscle is an emerging area of interest. The aim of this work was to evaluate the current literature that has assessed muscle mass as an outcome during a fish oil intervention in any chronic disease.

The vast majority of studies published in the last 3 years (12 of 15) have been conducted in the oncological setting, in patients undergoing treatment for cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, breast, head and neck, lung, cervix, and hematological cancers. Three studies were conducted in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Fish oil was provided as part of nutrient mixtures in 12 studies and as capsules in three studies.

Overall, the evidence for an effect of fish oil supplementation on muscle mass in patients with cancer undergoing treatment and in COPD remains unequivocal and reveals limited new knowledge in the area of fish oil supplementation in the cancer setting. Recent literature continues to provide mixed evidence on the efficacy of fish oil on muscle mass and function. The present review highlights challenges in comparing and interpreting current studies aimed at testing fish oil supplementation for muscle health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-173
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Issue number3
Early online date9 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


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