Omega 3 Fatty Acids
DHA and EPA from Fish Oil Supplements
Improve Inflammatory Arthritis Symptoms

Health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids are not limited to the heart. Multiple randomized controlled trials report improvements in morning stiffness and joint tenderness from inflammatory arthritis with the regular intake of fish oil supplements for up to three months, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Benefits have been reported as additive with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin. However, because of weaknesses in study designs and reporting, better research is necessary before a strong favorable recommendation can be made.

Effects beyond three months of treatment have not been well evaluated, but there is good scientific evidence for continued use indefinitely.

What are omega 3 fatty acids?

Omega 3 fatty acids are healthy polyunsaturated essential fatty acids found in fish, flax, canola oil, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.

An “essential” fatty acid is a type of fat that cannot be manufactured by the body and needs to come from the diet. Essential fatty acids include omega 3s and omega 6 fatty acids (omega 6s are readily available in the diet).

The preponderance of omega 6 over omega 3 fatty acids in the typical American diet is linked below to the cause of many of our modern health problems.

The ideal ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 is 4:1 or even 2:1. At minimum, a ratio of 1:1 is desired. Many modern unhealthy diets today have reverse ratios. Indeed, in Western diets the ratio is 15:1 to 16.7:1 of omega 6s to omega 3s!, per NIH’s Pubmed abstract entitled The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids, dated Oct. 2002.

In part, the abstract reports: “Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today's Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects.”

Three main dietary omega 3 fatty acids include EPA, DHA and ALA

There are three main dietary omega 3 fatty acids – EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) found in fish and seafood, and ALA (alpha linolenic acid) found in plants.

Omega 3 fatty acids have been known as essential to normal growth and health since the 1930s. Awareness of their health benefits has dramatically increased in the past few years

The health benefits of the long-chain omega 3 fatty acids — DHA and EPA omega 3 — as found in fish oil and fish oil supplements are the best known.

These benefits were discovered in the 1970s by researchers studying the Greenland Inuit Tribe. The Greenland Inuit people consumed large amounts of fat from seafood, but displayed virtually no cardiovascular disease. The high level of omega 3 fatty acids consumed by the Inuit reduced triglycerides, heart rate, blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

Omega 3 fatty acids reduce rates of inflammatory diseases

Interest in the use of fish oil for the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis (RA) stems from observations that groups of people who consumed large amounts of foods rich in omega 3s had lower rates of inflammatory diseases.

Fish oil contains high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids — the substances the body needs in order to perform a number of important functions, including reducing inflammation.

Species of fish high in omega 3s include herring, mackerel, salmon, and tuna. Fish oil supplements are available as capsules or oils.

Evidence from clinical trials on RA from use of fish oil dietary supplements is encouraging, according to the publication, RA and Complementary Health Approaches by the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), which reports that fish oil supplements may be useful in relieving tender joints and morning stiffness. Studies have also found that fish oil may reduce the need for NSAIDs and other conventional RA medicines. Additional research is needed and under way to establish more firmly fish oil’s potential role in treatment regimens for RA.

Why inflammatory diseases symptoms are improved by omega 3 fatty acids:

Increased intake of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil alter the body's production of substances known as prostaglandins, and, consequently, reduce some forms of inflammation. On the basis of this, EPA and DHA have been used in the treatment of symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis with considerable success (especially in early stages of the disease). Unlike "disease modifying" drugs, however, fish oil probably doesn't slow the progression of the disease.

The anti-inflammatory effects of EPA and DHA have also caused researchers to investigate possible benefits of fish oil for the treatment of menstrual cramps, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease), lupus, and the kidney disorder IgA nephropathy. For each of these conditions, at least one double-blind study has found positive results.

Are fish oil supplements a safer option to avoid contamination in fish?

In sourcing fish oil 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.

Some question the safety of obtaining omega 3 fatty acids from fish in the diet alone. Some also question the safety of fish oil supplements because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not enforce rigid testing of dietary supplement manufacturers. In fact, on March 2, 2010, the world’s largest producer of fish oil products was sued under California Proposition 65 for not revealing to consumers that their supplements contained toxic levels of PCBs.

There is no disposition of this suit at this time, and most fish oil manufacturers process raw materials to filter such contaminants to minimum safe levels. However, there is no standardized testing mandated by the FDA. Some manufacturers screen more thoroughly than others.

As FDA spells out in its October 6, 2011 Dietary Supplements publication, it only enforces regulations after an unsafe dietary supplement reaches the market. In other words, the consumer is the guinea pig.

Are all fish oil supplements equal in quality and purity?

Not all dietary supplements are manufactured equally. The industry is not as strictly regulated as the pharmaceutical industry. Dietary supplements, such as fish oil, are considered to be foods”, not drugs, by the FDA.

To address quality issues that exist with dietary supplements, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has introduced the Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010 on Feb. 3, 2010, which would amend Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and threaten parts of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), such as new dietary Ingredients (NDIs). The bill, stalled in Congress, aims “to more effectively regulate dietary supplements that may pose safety risks unknown to consumers.”

In defense, the Natural Products Association (NPA), released a public statement: “Our industry has long supported efforts to remove the relatively few bad actors who market adulterated products. We have advocated for additional enforcement funds for regulators, and for giving regulators additional authority to act. Some seek to paint with an awfully broad brush,” it said, noting the idea that the 150 million Americans who use dietary supplements are gambling with their health by shopping at mainstream stores just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. "Hyperbole does not lead to sound policy.”

(We have tried to stress on this website that not all dietary supplements are equally tested for purity and potency. That’s why my husband and I put our trust for our heart and arthritis joints in the best fish oil supplement we’ve found from the leading natural nutrition company in America. They produce the highest quality pharmaceutical grade fish oil product we’ve been able to find).

Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) fully in force June 25, 2010

Prior to the current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) final rule announced by the FDA in July, 2007, the dietary supplement industry had been basically unregulated since 1994. The new regulations bring more strict control on quality and safety. But some experts say it has nothing to do with the efficacy of the products.

The new rule by the FDA for dietary supplements requires manufacturers to test the purity and composition of their products. All companies had to comply by June, 2010.

Now the dietary supplement industry is fully covered under FDA's good manufacturing practices final rule. Council for Responsible Nutrition President and CEO Steve Mister said it is "a historic day" that "should put to rest any skepticism that our industry is not regulated."

But for the very small supplement manufacturers of fewer than 20 employees (the vast majority of the nearly 1000 overall companies) where obtaining quality testing equipment is daunting is it such a happy milestone?

Will they be ready when an FDA inspector walks through the door?

Quality testing is mandatory to produce high quality fish oil supplements

The old adage “you get what you pay for” often rings true with dietary supplements.

Testing methods are of utmost importance if a manufacturer is trying to produce the best fish oil supplement. For example, the company referenced above features a pharmaceutical grade state-of-the-art, proprietary, triple molecular distillation process that concentrates natural beneficial omega-3 fatty acids with these benefits:

  • Step 1: Temperature and duration controlled processing protects integrity of the finest quality oils from small cold-water fish.
  • Step 2: Minimizes thermal heat degradation.
  • Step 3: Low temperature distillation process helps remove saturated fats, yielding pure, highly concentrated essential omega-3. Impurities and contaminants such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins and PCBs (often found in fish and fish oils) are removed.
  • Step 4: The process produces a healthier fish oil by suppressing formation of dangerous trans fats. It’s free of saturated fat and cholesterol.

The product provides a full spectrum ultra-pure fish oil of all seven naturally found omega-3 fatty acids.

One daily serving size of 2 softgels provides over 1200 mg of natural fish oil, including 363 mg of EPA, 240 mg DHA plus 65 mg of five other naturally found fatty acids (docosapentaenoic, stearidonic, eicosatetraenoic, heneicosapentaenoic, and alpha-linolenic acids). Note: The label states: "Take 2 softgels one or two times daily with meals." If 4 softgels taken, the counts above become: 2400-726-480-130.

It is bioavailable, meaning capable of being absorbed by the body and available for use or storage, has low odor, no aftertaste, is easy to digest and gluten free.

Look for an iron clad guarantee

The manufacturer’s guarantee is very important. Be sure to look for one, especially with fish oil supplements. What are the details of the guarantee? Is it in writing? Does it guarantee a 100% refund if you’re not satisfied?

Of more importance, does it also:

  • 100% guarantee that the ingredients listed on the label are in the product
  • 100% guarantee of quality-controlled product formulations that ensure product safety, purity, reliability, and product performance (the efficacy factor!)
  • 100% guarantee that only the finest quality ingredients were used

The above guarantee is exactly what the featured company guarantees.

One manufacturer has 90 studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals

Pharmaceutical companies are required to do clinical trials. Dietary supplement companies are not.

My experience with typical dietary supplement manufacturers is that most hide behind studies/trials done by others related to their product ingredients because they have very few (or don’t have any!) of their own. If you’re considering omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements, my recommendation is to find a company that’s proud of the research, development, science and clinical studies in their products.

Try to find out if they have published clinical studies on their supplements that prove both safety and effectiveness. Again, I would recommend choosing a company such as the Shaklee Corporation, referenced above, which has 100 studies (90 published in peer-reviewed medical journals) on their own products, rather than just one or two.

Featured omega 3 fatty acids in a fish oil supplement

My husband and I have personal testimonies on the use of fish oil supplements and other natural products for the control of pain, inflammation, swelling and stiffness from our arthritis. Shaklee was founded in 1956. They’ve invested more than $250 million in clinical testing, research and development on their products. Based on the evidence presented on this page, we sincerely believe their omega 3 fatty acids supplement, Omega Guard, is the best money can buy.

For our money, it's the finest fish oil supplement found anywhere on the market. In addition to the 180-count size we use (90-day supply at two softgels daily, 45-day supply taking four), a 60-count size is available.


*Omega 3 Fatty Acids Disclaimer: Health statements on this Omega 3 Fatty Acids page 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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