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Omega-3s Combined with Conventional Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Linked to Improved Outcomes

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful and often debilitating disease that attacks the joints, making them swollen and stiff. A recent study suggests that taking a supplement of both DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids in combination with traditional medicines may result in significantly improved treatment outcomes.

Participants in the study included 140 individuals with early rheumatoid arthritis. Over the course of one year, half of the group took 5.5 g omega-3s (high dose) while the other half took 0.4 g (low dose) daily.

In this study, the low dose group was considered a control, as previous research indicated that dosages at that level had no clinical effects.

All of the participants also took traditional rheumatoid arthritis medicines, consisting of 10 mg of methotrexate, 500 mg sulfasalazine, and 200 mg hydroxychloroquine. Those dosages were adjusted based on swollen joint count, elevation levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), high levels of erythrocyte sedimentation, or if the participants had consistent pain, fatigue, or early morning stiffness.

The researchers defined treatment failure as the need to add leflunomide (another traditional medicine) to the treatment. By the conclusion of the study, 32.1% of the controls had started taking leflunomide while only 10.5% of the high dose group had needed to add it.

After adjusting for smoking and other lifestyle factors, the failure rate still remained lower in the high dose group. The remission rate was greater in the fish oil group as well.

In terms of daily living activities (which the researchers measured with the modified Health Assessment Questionnaire), both group showed substantial improvements.

Taking NSAIDs to treat pain during the duration of the trial was discouraged and only one participant (in the control group) was taking NSAIDs by the end of the trial. At the outset of the trial, 8% of the high dose group and 34% of the control group had been taking them.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on September 30, 2013.

Omega-3s have been linked to a number of health benefits, including alleviating arthritis pain, improving mood, helping with age related macular degeneration, and aiding your immune system.

Because omega-3 fatty-acids are not found naturally in the human body, it is especially important to ensure they are part of your daily diet. Oily, dark fish such as tuna and salmon are high in DHA and EPA omega-3s, while ALA omega-3 fatty-acids are plant derived and can be found in flaxseed oil, vegetable oil, and walnuts.

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