The more miles you run, the greater your need for omega-3 fatty acids
Runners - and probably other endurance athletes - improve their health if they consume an extra 1-2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily. A lifestyle with a lot of exercise increases the need for omega-3 fatty acids. Does this also apply to strength athletes?
Sergio Davinelli, a researcher from the University of Molise in Italy, took blood samples from 257 recreational runners who were not taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Davinelli determined the concentration of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the samples.
At the same time, Davinelli asked the runners how many kilometers they ran per week.
The more kilometers the athletes covered per week, the fewer omega-3 fatty acids and the more omega-3 fatty acids there were in their blood. Scientists express this ratio in the omega-3 index. The smaller the index, the lower the proportion of omega-3 fatty acids circulating in the bloodstream.
In Europe the omega-3 index is about 4-6 percent, in the US it is lower than 4 percent. In Japan, where fish consumption is higher than in the West, an omega-3 index of 8-11 percent is normal. The latter level is optimal, according to nutritional scientists. An omega-3 index of 8-11 protects the brain and cardiovascular system.
There are indications that the risk of heart attacks is increased in some groups of runners. [Heart. 2013 Apr;99(8):516-9.] Davinelli's research may show why.
Davinelli suspects that the membranes of muscle cells change due to a lifestyle with a lot of exercise. The muscle cells use unsaturated fatty acids such as DHA for this purpose.
The researcher bases this suspicion on a publication from 2001. [J Appl Physiol (1985). 2001 Feb;90(2):670-7.] The figure below comes from this publication. You see the increase in fatty acids such as DHA in the muscle cells during a period of 28 days during which subjects trained their muscles.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) believes that we should consume 200 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA every day. This recommendation is too low for endurance athletes, the Italians conclude from their research results. People who expend a lot of energy through exercise - such as runners - should consume 1-2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day, they estimate.
"Future studies could assess whether regular or high intake of omega-3 rich foods may be effective to counteract the effects of running and other endurance activities on polyunsaturated fatty acid status", write the researchers.
"Further large-scale cohort studies will be needed to confirm the influence of running activity on the omega-3 index and arachidonic acid/EPA ratio."
Front Physiol. 2019 Apr 26:10:487.
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Omega-3 Fatty Acids