Omega-3 fatty acids, which are naturally present in marine oils, can effectively relieve the pain and disability associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a new study.
Researchers randomised 50 RA sufferers into two groups. One group received 40 mg of fish oil per kg of body weight, and the other received a similar amount of mixed corn oil and olive oil capsules as a placebo. Both groups were assessed at four, eight and 15 weeks.
The main outcome measures included active joint count, morning stiffness, pain, and objective and subjective assessment by questionnaire.
Those taking the placebo showed no improvement in any of the measured outcomes whereas those taking the marine oil showed significant improvement in scores for feelings of wellbeing, pain and disability.
However, while these results are encouraging, fish oil did not appear to have any significant effect on biochemical markers of inflammation, such as the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), Creactive protein, or swollen and tender joint counts.
The Western diet is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are known to stimulate the production of bio chemical markers for inflammation. Supplementation with fish oils, say the researchers, may restore balance in the body which can, in turn, lead to a number of improvements in RA symptoms (J Rheuma-tol, 2000; 27: 2343-6).