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Omega Athlete

Omega-3 has the potential to improve athletic performance from club level to elite Olympic athletes. Omega-3 can be beneficial to athletes in a number of ways such as improving blood flow to muscles (1) and increasing oxygen delivery to heart muscles (2), its effect of reducing inflammatory hormone production (3), and its ability to minimise the impact of trauma and so improve recovery from injury (4).

Omega-3 is one of the few treatments to have improved exercise induced asthma which does not respond to the normal asthma treatments (5). It has also been shown that Omega-3 not only reduces cardiac risk for the general population (6) but also for athletes (7). In a review of the use of Omega-3 in athletes, Simpolousos commented that Omega-3 is essential for the well being of athletes (8).

Combining exercise and Omega-3 supplementation improves cardiovascular and metabolic health and independently reduces body fat (9). Omega-3 is a useful addition to any exercise programme from elite athletes to anyone trying to improve their lifestyle and appearance. Omega-3 also reduces hunger sensation and increases satiety after a meal which may have implications for weight loss programmes (10).

Some athletes have an increased incidence of heart disease after retirement. Omega-3 has been suggested as a useful substance to prevent heart disease. In a recent study, American Pro Footballers were given Omega-3 supplements and showed significant improvement in blood lipids and Omega-3 levels (1).


(1) Walser B, Giordano RM, Stebbins CL: Supplementation with Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augments brachial artery dilation and blood flow during forearm contraction. Eur J Appl Physiol 2006, 97:347-354.
(2) Peoples GE, Mclennan PL, Howe PRC, Groeller H: Fish oil reduces apparent myocardial oxygen consumption in trained cyclists but does not change time to fatigue. Presented at the Forth International Conference on Nutrition and Fitness. Athens: May 25-29, 2000
(3) Goransson U, Karlson J, Ronneberg R, et al. The “Are” sport nutratherapy program: the rationale for food supplements in sport medicine. World Rev Nutr Diet 1997, 82:101-121
(4) Von R. King, *Wenlong L. Huang*, Simon C. Dyall, Olimpia E. Curran. John V. Priestley, and Adina T. Michael-Titu. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Improve Recovery, whereas Omega-6 Fatty Acids Worsen Outcome, after Spinal Cord Injury in the Adult Rat. The Journal of Neuroscience, April 26, 2006, 26(17):472-4680
(5) Mickleborough TD, Murray RL, Ionescu AA, Lindley MR: Fish oil supplementation reduces severity of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in elite athletes. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2003, 168:1181-1189.
(6) Parker G, Gibson NA, Brotchie H, Heruc G, Rees AM, Hadzi-Pavlovic D. Omega-3 fatty acids and mood disorders. Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163(6):969-78
(7) Reiner E, Tedeschi-Reiner E, Stajminger G. The role of Omega-3 fatty acids from fish in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Lijec Vjesn. 2007 Oct-Nov;129(10-11):350-5
(8) Simopoulos, A. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Athletes. Current Sports Medicine Reports Volume 6(4), August 2007, p 230-236
(9) Hill A, Buckley J, Murphy K, et al. Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007; 85(5): 1267-1274.
(10) Parra D, Ramel A, Bandarra N, et al. A diet rich in long chain Omega-3 fatty acids modulates satiety in overweight and obese volunteers during weight loss. Appetite. 2008;51(3):676-80
(11) Yates A, Norwig J, Maroon J, Bost J, et al. Evaluation of lipid profiles, inflammatory markers and the use of Omega-3 EFA in Professional Football Players. Sports Health 2009;1;1 21-30