Complementary medicine update

Omega-3 fatty acids for early rheumatoid arthritis

Susanna Proudman, Les Cleland, Michael James

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Abstract

The anti-inflammatory effects of high doses of omega-3 fatty acids provide symptomatic relief and also reduce cardiovascular risk in rheumatoid arthritis. Fish oil is a convenient source of these essential fatty acids.

Article Extract

Recent advances in the management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) include early, intensive use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), with remission as the goal. This goal incorporates avoidance of NSAIDs, which lack disease-modifying effects and confer increased risk for adverse cardiovascular and upper gastrointestinal events.

Fish oil contains natural inhibitors of the pro-inflammatory enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX) and its ingestion in adequate dosages has the beneficial effects of reducing tender joint count in RA, reducing reliance on NSAIDs for RA symptom relief and reducing CV risk. Fish oil therefore warrants consideration as a component of therapy for RA.

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