People don’t know how effective fish oil can be at reducing pain and inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I’m starting to understand why. No one is telling them. I’m a scientist who has worked in research and education with nutrition and dietary supplements for over 15 years. Human research has consistently shown that fish oil is both safe and effective at reducing RA pain. In order to get symptomatic relief, however, it is vital that people know how much and how long to take fish oil. I’ve seen people take a little fish oil for a few days and wonder why ‘it doesn’t work’. It’s upsetting to me that people don’t know about fish oil for RA, particularly because the drug alternatives are problematic and they don’t stop progression of the disease.
The first studies showing that fish oil reduced RA pain were published in the 1980s (e.g. Cleland, 1988) and it has been shown several times over that fish oil is effective for reducing joint pain, morning stiffness and other symptoms of RA (e.g. Kremer, 1995). In these studies, people felt better, moved easier and were able to reduce their use of NSAIDs and other COX-2- inhibitor drugs. These studies were completed in humans with arthritis taking fish oil (not rats eating chow).
Fast forward to 2007. Two doctors completed a careful scientific review (called a meta analysis) of studies using omega-3 fats for pain in people with RA. Looking at 17 studies that followed the gold standard of research design, they were able to identify what TYPE, how MUCH and how LONG to take the supplements for real benefit (Goldberg, 2007).
The need-to-know information is this: People with RA have less joint pain, less morning stiffness and have been able to reduce their use of NSAIDS when they took at least 2.7 grams of EPA and DHA from fish oil for at least 3 months. People who took enough for 5 months or more had even better results.
Some key points to keep in mind: 1) This is 2.7 grams of EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are unique fats found in fish oil. 2) Humans can not make these fats - that's why we need to eat them, that’s why they are called ‘essential’ fats. 3) EPA and DHA work to naturally to reduce inflammation and that’s why you need enough, long enough. We need to provide enough material for the anti-inflammatory job. 5) Flax seeds do not contain EPA or DHA.
It’s easy to do. Pharmaomega LIFE is a concentrated, pure fish oil supplement. 4 capsules provide 2.8 grams of EPA and DHA. With most fish oil products on the market you need to take 9-10 capsules a day to get this amount. I am a scientist and I work for this fish oil company. It’s my job to ensure the science and quality of product. I appreciate being able to share the information and the science. Please write if you have questions.
Gretchen Vannice, MS, RD
Manager, Scientific Affairs
Nourish Life, LLC