From The February 2001 Issue of Nutrition Science News
Omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish oil supplements may provide modest improvement in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted at the University of Newcastle in Australia. In this study, 50 people with RA were randomly assigned to take either 40 mg/kg body weight of fish oil (containing 60 percent omega-3 fatty acids) or placebo daily for 15 weeks. The fish oil group had an average age of 54 and an average disease duration of 12 years, whereas the placebo group was 60 years old on average and had RA for an average of 15 years. Because omega-6 fatty acids, found in most vegetable oils, compete with omega-3 fatty acids, the researchers included only subjects who generally ate less than 10 g/day of omega-6 fatty acids.
Participants were monitored for several measures of disease severity before and during the study. There was no difference between the two groups at four and eight weeks. At 15 weeks, however, the average measures of the fish oil group had decreased for swollen joint count, duration of early-morning stiffness, pain, health assessment, and patient and physician assessment of arthritis severity. The level of improvement was modest, however, because only five fish oil patients showed an improvement of 20 percent or more compared with three control patients who experienced the same rate of improvement.
The value of this research is limited because the published study does not state whether subjects were men or women. The researchers also neglected to address the difficulty of conducting blind studies with fish oil because of its taste, as well as the initial difference in age and disease history between the two groups.
Efficacy of Fish Oil Concentrate in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
J Rheumatology 2000 (Oct); 27 (10):2343-2346