Fish oils reduce exercise-induced muscle damage

Fish Oil vs Soybean/Corn Oil

URMIA, IRAN. It is well established that some forms of exercise result in acute inflammation and muscle damage. Eccentric exercises (exercises whereby the muscle under load is lengthened) such as stair stepping are particularly likely to induce inflammation, muscle soreness, injury, pain and edema. A group of German and Iranian sports medicine physicians report that supplementing with fish oils prior to, during, and following an eccentric exercise program markedly reduces biomarkers of inflammation and tissue injury.

Their study included 45 young, healthy, untrained male volunteers. All participants had blood samples drawn at baseline and were then assigned to one of three groups – fish oil group, placebo group or control group. Members of the fish oil group supplemented with a natural fish oil product providing 324 mg/day of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 216 mg/day of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) for 30 days before the exercise session and also during the 48 hours following the end of the exercise. The placebo group received capsules containing a soybean/corn oil mixture, and the control group received no supplements for the 30 days + 48-hour period. The placebo and fish oil groups also received 100 IU of vitamin E to minimize oxidation of long-chain fatty acids.

The exercise session consisted of 40 minutes of bench stepping (knee height step, 50 cm on average, at a rate of 15 steps a minute), with 5 minutes of stepping, and 1 minute of rest between stepping periods. Blood samples were taken from all study participants immediately before the exercise session, immediately after, and 24 and 48 hours later. The samples were analyzed for the following markers of inflammation/muscle damage:

  • Interleukin-6 (IL-6)
  • Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF)
  • Prostaglandin E2 (PGE)
  • Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)
  • Creatine kinase (CK)
  • Myoglobin (Mb)

There were no significant differences between groups in these markers either at baseline or immediately prior to the exercise session. However, levels of TNF, PGE and LDH in the fish oil group were substantially lower immediately post-exercise and at 24 and 48 hours than were levels in the placebo and control groups. Levels of IL-6, CK and Mb were substantially lower at 24 and 48 hours than were levels in the placebo and control groups. NOTE: There were no differences in inflammation marker levels between the placebo and control groups; however, these levels did increase after the exercise session.

Fish Oils Provide Anti-inflammatory Protection

The researchers conclude that fish oil supplementation taken before, during and following eccentric exercise provides potent anti-inflammatory protection and might serve as a potential agent to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage.
Tartibian, B, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation attenuates inflammatory markers after eccentric exercise in untrained men. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, Vol. 21, No. 2, March 2011, pp. 131-37

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