Omega-3 fatty acids help arthritis sufferers reduce medication

Nutrition & Food Science

ISSN: 0034-6659

Article publication date: 18 July 2008



(2008), "Omega-3 fatty acids help arthritis sufferers reduce medication", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 38 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Omega-3 fatty acids help arthritis sufferers reduce medication

Article Type: Food facts From: Nutrition & Food Science, Volume 38, Issue 4.

It may not be the first time fish oils have been linked with arthritis, but many newspapers have recently run headlines about the latest study to confirm one of the many health benefits of a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

The reports looked at a study carried out by researchers at Dundee's University and Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, as well as Edinburgh's Western General Hospital. The scientists discovered that people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis who take cod liver oil supplements which contain omega-3 fatty acids can reduce their reliance on pain relief drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Published in the journal Rheumatology, the results of the double-blind randomised controlled trial suggest that some people with rheumatoid arthritis who take 10g of cod liver oil supplements every day could cut the amount of NSAIDs they need by up to 30 per cent. Thirty-nine per cent of those who took the cod liver oil capsules reduced their NSAIDs intake after nine months, while only 10 per cent of the group taking a placebo (dummy pill) instead of cod liver oil managed to take fewer NSAIDs.

As with most drugs there are advantages of reducing your intake of NSAIDs, the most obvious being to lower your chances of suffering side effects such as an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Unlike osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear of the joints, rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder that causes chronic joint inflammation. Several older studies suggest that the omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may help relieve inflammation, which in turn reduces the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Only last year, a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry claimed that EPA may block the creation of inflammation-causing chemicals called prostanoids.

Supplementary benefits

While many experts claim the best way to get a good supply of omega-3 fatty acids is to eat oily fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, pilchards, sardines, mackerel, trout, herring and kippers, this latest study proves yet again that supplements can also play a part, especially for people who do not like eating fish.

One easy way to boost your intake of EPA is to take VegEPA, each capsule of which contains a high dose (280mg) of ultra-pure EPA from marine fish oil. VegEPA also contains GLA, or gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid sourced from organic virgin evening primrose oil.

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