Can Supplements Help Prevent Muscle Loss?

Muscle loss is a real problem. If you can't exercise, new research suggests a specific mix of fish oil might be just...

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Today’s Health Upgrade

  • The surprising muscle protector

  • The memory vitamin

  • Genetically engineered rice?

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The Surprising Muscle Protector

Resistance training is your best bet if you want to build or maintain muscle. But if you’re taking some time off or injured, there might be a supplement that can help. 

New research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids might help maintain — and even gain — muscle when you're not exercising.

Scientists reviewed seven studies focusing on inactive individuals who consumed higher amounts of fish oil. For the shorter-term studies (two weeks or less), consuming 390 mg of DHA and 1,770 mg of EPA prevented a loss of muscle mass during immobilization. During longer studies (more than six weeks), a minimum of 800 mg of DHA and 1,600 mg of EPA increased muscle mass during inactivity (less than 1.5 hours of movement per week). Two studies even found muscle maintenance and growth benefits at doses as high as 1,500 mg of DHA and 1,860 mg of EPA.

In the last few years, more research has focused on the role of fish oil in slowing muscle loss and supporting muscle gain. Some studies suggest omega-3’s might support protein synthesis, which is involved in muscle growth. At this point, it’s unclear why we see the connection between omega-3s and preserving muscle or if the improvements in inactive people are the same as in those who exercise. (Just because it assists when you’re not exercising doesn’t mean it helps when you are.)

If you’re battling inactivity (for whatever reason), omega-3s could be a good way to help fight off muscle loss, and fish oil has other possible benefits for cardiovascular health, as well. 

The Memory Vitamin

The more we age, the more we might benefit from a good old-fashioned multivitamin.

A 2-year randomized controlled study found that supplementing daily with a multivitamin improved overall cognition in older adults. 

The study analyzed more than 21,000 participants and compared people who took a multivitamin to those who didn’t. The multivitamin appeared to help strengthen memory and processing, with the improvements estimated to reduce brain aging by two to five years. 

Because so many other factors influence the health of your brain, it’s hard to associate all the benefits with a multivitamin. So, we don’t want to overstate what might be happening. And that’s not to say you can’t get similar benefits from a nutritious diet.

After age 60, the need to fuel your mind and body changes. Low-cost methods with little downside and high potential upside could be worth the effort. A mix of regular exercise, good eating habits, better sleep, and social connection have proven benefits, and adding a daily multivitamin to that foundation could help keep your mind performing like it did when you were younger.

Is “Meat Rice” The Next Big Thing?

There’s no shortage of tech innovations happening in the world of nutrition. Lab-based “meat” is a multi (multi) million dollar endeavor, as scientists try to figure out how to recreate the nutritional upside of meat without the potential downsides and environmental impact. 

South Korean researchers recently developed “meat rice,” a hybrid form of rice with some added protein. 

Simply put, the scientists found a way to add beef muscles and fat and grow it on rice. You then cook the rice like you usually would, and — ta-dah! — you have beef rice

We dug into the numbers, and — strictly from a nutrition-label standpoint — we’re not sure how much this makes sense. According to the research, “A 100-gram serving of the hybrid rice contains 0.01 grams more fat and 0.31 grams more protein, a 7% and 9% change, respectively.” In other words, this sounds cool for people who want more protein, but — in practical reality — you’re not adding enough protein to offer any nutritional benefit. There are more effective ways to give your diet a protein boost.

Technology is fascinating and can help people in many ways. But just like supplements that promise the world and provide a dose that won’t do anything, oftentimes, the potential of an idea far outpaces the actual benefits.  

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell