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Fish oil, omega 3 fatty acids may help rheumatoid arthritis

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By Jimmy Downs

Tuesday Oct 2, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A review article in British Journal of Nutrition suggests that taking marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) or fish oil supplements are likely able to help relieve some signs and symptoms in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis.

Elizabeth A. Milesa1 and Philip C. Calder of University of Southampton in Southampton, UK, authors of the review, say that omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid arachidonic acid is known to be a precursor of inflammatory eicosanoids in the pathology of rheumatoid arthritis.

Some therapies, according to the authors, use marine omega 3 (n-3) PUFAs, mainly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in cold water oily water and fish oils because these marine n-3 have been known to decrease the cellular content of arachidonic acid involved in immune responses and lower the production of inflammatory eicosanoids from arachidonic acid.

Eicosanoid mediators produced from EPA are less inflammatory than those from arachidonic acid and also both DHA and EPA lead to the formation of resolvins that are protective against inflammation.

Marine n-3 PUFAs can be good for other aspects of immunity and inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis, the authors say, including dendritic cell, T cell function and production of inflammatory cytokines and reactive oxygen species.

Early studies show fish oil slows the development or progression of rheumatoid arthritis in study animals and to reduce disease severity.  Randomized controlled trials of marine n-3 PUFAs have been conducted in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

In summary, the authors say "Evidence is seen for a fairly consistent, but modest, benefit of marine n-3 PUFAs on joint swelling and pain, duration of morning stiffness, global assessments of pain and disease activity, and use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs."

Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of arthritis with symptoms including pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints.   It can occur in any joint but commonly in the wrist and fingers. Women are more likely than men to get rheumatoid arthritis.
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