Fish Oil for Arthritis
Reduces Joint Inflammation
Fish oil for arthritis? Yes, studies show the same omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in fish oil supplements that support cardiovascular health also reduce joint inflammation for arthritis sufferers.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known best for their heart benefits. But a growing body of research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may also provide benefits beyond reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as lowering joint inflammation and tenderness for rheumatoid arthritis and other arthritis types.
The Fish Oil Supplement Guide by Arthritis Today, the online publication of the Arthritis Foundation, recommends using omega 3 supplements to treat arthritis-related conditions, as follows: "Use fish oil capsules with at least 30 percent EPA/ DHA, the active ingredients. For lupus and psoriasis, 2 g EPA/DHA three times a day. For Raynaud’s phenomenon, 1 g four times a day. For rheumatoid arthritis, up to 2.6 g fish oil (1.6 g EPA) twice a day."
Over 4,500 research studies on omega-3 fatty acids’ effects on overall health have been conducted in the last 25 years. In addition to the above recommendations by the Arthritis Foundation, The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating two servings of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids each week or using fish oil supplements.
Fish oil is considered the best source of omega 3 fatty acids as it contains a full spectrum of all seven omega 3's including EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), ALA (alpha linolenic acid), and more.
The average American intake of EPA and DHA is only 0.1 to 0.2 grams daily. The AHA’s recommended two fish meals per week is expected to provide an intake of about 0.3 to 0.5 grams daily of EPA and DHA. Fish oil supplements provide the omega-3 acids lacking in the diet. The best fish oil supplements safely do so by guaranteeing they eliminate contaminants, such as mercury and PCBs, so often found in fish.
Research shows that high levels of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids promote cardiovascular health, help retain normal blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and support brain, visual and joint function.
Fish oil supplements recommended for low fish diets and safety
The best source of essential omega 3 fatty acids is from cold water fish (tuna, mackerel, halibut, salmon and cod). But it’s difficult to get therapeutic amounts of fish oil by eating fish alone.
Moreover, there are growing concerns about unsafe levels of contaminants such as mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins and PCBs that are now commonly found in many fish. For these reasons, a high quality, ultra-pure omega-3 fatty acid dietary supplement is advised.
Not all omega 3 supplements are equal in quality. This is a consumer beware market. You must do your homework and know what to look for when choosing a fish oil supplement brand, because the dietary supplement industry is rife with unsafe, low quality products because of lightweight regulations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Lawsuit illustrates why you must choose a fish oil supplement carefully
On March 2, 2010 the makers and sellers of the world's largest producer of fish oil supplements were sued by the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation in California under California Proposition 65 for not telling consumers on their product labels that the products contained toxic levels of PCBs.
The defendants in this lawsuit were Omega Protein, a Houston-based company, and the many companies that they produced fish oil for -- companies like Rite Aid, CVS, GNC, Now Health Group, Pharmavite, Solgar and Twinlab. And those aren't the only ones. Mateel only tested 10 omega-3 supplements manufactured by Omega Protein to date and have found PCBs in all of them. They plan to continue testing and to add other companies to the lawsuit if their products are also contaminated.
Even scarier is that many of the labels on these products said that the omega-3 supplement was treated to reduce or remove PCBs. Consumers were led to believe that they were safe!
My husband and I use one of the world’s best fish oil supplements, Omega Guard, featured at the end of this page. Its state-of-the-art proprietary triple molecular distillation process concentrates natural beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. The net result of this process is an ultra-pure supplement that is bioavailable, low in odor, has no aftertaste, is easy to digest, and its safety unconditionally guaranteed.
It contains the full spectrum of all seven omega-3s including EPA, DHA and ALA. We take this supplement preventively for heart health, but we know from personal experience it also helps reduce joint inflammation from our arthritis conditions, which we really like.
Chronic pain---an explanation of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids
Vital to human life, omega 3 fatty acids are one of two groups of fatty acids—the omega 3s and the omega 6s. They are essential fatty acids (EFAs), which the body cannot make by itself, but absolutely needs for regulating growth and development.
Diets that provide Omega 6 oils at the expense of omega 3 stimulate pro-inflammatory pathways in the body. While Omega 3’s on the other hand stimulates anti-inflammatory pathways.
Examples of foods rich in omega 6 fatty acids include corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, and cottonseed oil. Heating omega 6 oils such as corn oil to high temperatures creates trans-fats, which are not good. Trans-fats increase the shelf life of oils and are found in vegetable shortenings and in some margarines, commercial pastries, fried foods, crackers, cookies, and snack foods.
The typical American diet of fast foods and snack foods contains a high intake of trans-fatty acids. These trans-fats increase blood LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”), decreases HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”), and raises the risk of coronary heart disease.
In addition to fish, omega-3 fatty acids can be found in other marine life such as algae and krill, certain plants, and nut oils. Dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish oil and certain plant/nut oils. Oil from fish contains both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), while some nuts (e.g., English walnuts) and vegetable oils (e.g., canola, soybean, flaxseed/linseed, and olive oil) contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Omega 3 fatty acids manage inflammation and other health factors
Omega 3s are intimately involved in the management of inflammation, cardiovascular health, myelin sheath development (coating around nerves), allergic reactivity, immune response, hormone modulation, intelligence quotient and behavior.
Typically, omega 6 fatty acids initiate an inflammatory response. So here’s where the problem starts. We evolved until the 20th Century eating roughly a one-to-one ratio of fatty acids omega 3’s and omega 6’s. Today, the average American diet is tipped at least twenty to one in favor of omega 6s.
The balance between these two essential omega fatty acids—the omega 3s and the omega 6s—is very important because they self check each other in a delicate balance regulating thousands of metabolic functions through the prostaglandin pathways.
Is the American diet causing a pro-inflammatory state in our bodies?
It’s now hypothesized that the radical changes in the American diet since the 1950’s has shifted our physiology towards a pro-inflammatory state. This may also help explain the explosion of inflammatory-type diseases over the last 50 years.
Dr. Cosmas Ho, M.D., C.C.F.P, from Canada, observed, “A modern dietary shift unprecedented in human history favoring the ingestion of Omega 6 at the expense of Omega 3 is being owed as a primary, if not the leading cause of westernized degenerative diseases.
In light of this information, it is highly advisable to make conscious dietary choices to reduce the amount of extraneous Omega 6 in the diet and to ingest Omega 3’s in an effort to return the body to balance.”
The imbalance of Omega 6 fatty acids in Western countries
People living in industrialized western countries eat up to 30 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids, resulting in a relative deficiency of omega-3 fats, according to a copyrighted article by Teresa Odle, 2005, under the heading Omega-3 Fatty Acids published online in Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine.
The article added, “Omega-6 metabolic products (inflammatory prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes) are formed in excessive amounts causing allergic and inflammatory disorders and make the body more prone to heart attacks, strokes, and cancer.”
“Eating diets rich in omega-3 acids or taking fish oil supplements can restore the balance between the two fatty acids and can possibly reverse these disease processes,” the article summarized.
The objective for helping to control chronic pain is to reduce (but not completely eliminate) omega 6 fatty acids and increase the omega 3s in the daily diet.
Research shows fish oil reduces inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis
Data from at least a few randomized double-controlled studies have demonstrated a beneficial effect of dietary omega 3's in rheumatoid arthritis, according to Dr. Nathan Wei, a board-certified rheumatologist and Clinical director of the Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center of Maryland.
On September 13, 2006, Dr. Wei wrote in an Ezine article entitled, Doctor, Does Fish Oil Help Arthritis?: “More than nine studies overall have shown statistically significant reductions in the number of tender joints. In many of these studies, patients were able to lower the amount of non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroids.”
“Fish oil works by reducing inflammation,” wrote Dr. Wei. However, he added, “scant evidence indicates it may retard progression of rheumatoid arthritis…although the effect, if it exists, is relatively mild.”
As a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, studies have also shown fish oil lowers triglycerides and reduces blood pressure therefore protecting against cardiovascular disease as well. This is noteworthy because doctors are already aware that patients with rheumatoid arthritis have increased cardiovascular risk.
As we’ve written on other pages of this website, there is no cure for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
What are the side effects or drug interactions of fish oil supplements?
If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. Unless you find the best supplement companies like the one I recommend at the end of this page, there’s no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of fish oil products and their effects may vary.
You should always read product labels. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects. People with allergy or hypersensitivity to fish should avoid fish oil fish oil supplements.
There have been rare reports of skin rash, noted the online Mayo Clinic on Sept. 12, 2008 while cautioning that people who are allergic or hypersensitive to nuts should avoid alpha linolenic acid (ALA) if the omega-3 fatty acid product is derived from the types of nuts to which they react.
FDA—3 grams daily of omega-3s from fish is regarded as safe
The FDA classifies intake of up to 3 grams daily of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe), according to the Mayo Clinic, They add that caution may be warranted in diabetic patients due to potential (albeit unlikely) increases in blood sugar levels, patients at risk of bleeding, or in those with high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
Care is necessary when choosing and consuming a fish oil supplement. Mild gastrointestinal upset is common with lesser quality fish oil supplement brands, but can be minimized if fish oils are taken with meals and if doses are started low and gradually increased.
Diarrhea may also occur, with potentially severe diarrhea at very high doses. There are also reports of increased burping, acid reflux/heartburn/indigestion, abdominal bloating, and abdominal pain. Omega 3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding, although there is little evidence of significant bleeding risk at lower doses.
The safety concern of contaminants applies to eating fish more than from ingesting omega-3 supplements. The Mayo Clinic says potentially harmful contaminants such as dioxins, methylmercury and polychloritated biphenyl (PCBs) are found in some species of fish.
However, you should be safe from all of the above concerns if you look for and take a high quality, high potency, pure triple-molecular-distillation pharmaceutical-grade fish oil supplement like the one recommended below.
Featured fish oil omega 3 fatty acids supplement
The pharmaceutical-grade omega-3 supplement my husband and I take, Omega Guard by Shaklee Corporation, has been formulated to minimize odor and fishy aftertaste, and contains higher levels of EPA and DHA than leading brands. It is free of impurities and contaminants such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins and PCBs.
It is made by a company founded in 1956, a recognized leader in the natural nutrition industry. The science behind each of their products is second to none. They’ve invested more than $250 million in clinical testing, research and development and have over 90 published studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals—more than any other nutritional company!
Just two softgels equals one daily serving dose, containing over 1200 mg of natural fish oil, consisting of omega-3 fatty acids (363 mg EPA, 240 mg DHA) and 65 mg of five other fatty acids. Note: the label reads: "Take 2 softgels one or two times daily with meals." If taking four daily, the mg count is: 2400-726-480-130.
Fish oil supplements not only are an important source of omega-3 fatty acids for joint health, they’re also beneficial to your overall heart health. I highly recommend what my husband and I consider the best fish-oil supplement available in the world. It's a 180 softgel size, a 90-day supply at two a day, or 45-day supply at four a day. It's also available in a 60-count size. Decide for yourself. Try it and see if this natural, safe treatment works for you.
Disclaimer: Health statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease
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