Can Omega 3 Supplements
Reduce Arthritis Symptoms?

Omega 3 supplements are just one of a variety of supplements available to those with arthritis joint pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin are most commonly associated with reducing osteoarthritis symptoms Are these the best supplements for arthritis symptoms? What does research indicate regarding fish oil supplements or Omega-3, also known as n-3 fatty acid, and arthritis pain?

Omega 3 supplements have gained most of its attention secondary to its affect on the cardiovascular system. Research supports the use of these Omega-3 fatty acids for people with cardiovascular issues secondary to their ability to stimulate blood circulation and reduce clot and scar formation. Most notably there is strong evidence that n-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements reduce blood triglyceride levels and reduces the risk of a heart attack. People with other circulatory issues including high blood pressure and varicose veins can also benefit from supplementation.

What Does This Have To Do With Arthritis?

Of all the supplements that have been evaluated by research for arthritis, Omega 3 supplements (specifically fish oil) demonstrates the greatest effectiveness in reducing symptoms associated with arthritis, but specifically rheumatoid arthritis.

Omega-3 works to help minimize the effect of Omega-6 fatty acids in the body. The Omega-6 fatty acids are considered ‘proinflammatory’ compounds. These compounds not only have an effect on the cardiovascular system but the immune system as well. As arthritis is an inflammatory disease, supplementing with Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation and support the immune system.

It is important to note that most benefits associated with taking fish oil supplements are not realized until after a minimum of 12 weeks of taking 3g (3000 mg) of fish oil (DHA/EPA). Omega 3 supplements can also be enhanced by increasing the consumption of Omega 3 rich foods.

In addition, because Omega-3 works to offset the inflammatory effects of Omega-6 compounds, reducing the intake of these Omega-6 ‘proinflammatory’ fatty acids can also help reduce inflammation. Four major food oils including palm, soybean, rapeseed, and sunflower all contain high levels of Omega-6 and should be used sparingly.

Based on the research, Omega 3 supplements not only demonstrate cardiovascular benefits but additional benefits in reducing inflammation associated with arthritis.

Omega 3 Supplements vs Food Source

Some research indicates that omega-3 may be better absorbed from food than fish oil supplements. Norwegian researchers compared 71 volunteers' absorption of Omega-3s (EPA and DHA) from salmon, smoked salmon, cod (14 ounces of fish per week) or cod liver oil (3 teaspoons per day). Cooked salmon provided 1.2 grams of Omega-3s daily, while cod liver oil provided more than twice as much: 3 grams of Omega-3s per day.

Despite the fact that the salmon group got less than half the amount of Omega-3s as the cod liver oil group, blood levels of Omega-3s increased quite a bit more in those eating salmon than those taking cod liver oil. After 8 weeks, EPA levels had risen 129% and DHA rose 45% in those eating cooked salmon compared to 106% and 25%, respectively, in those taking cod liver oil. In the group eating smoked salmon, blood levels of Omega-3s rose about one-third less than in the salmon group. In those eating cod, the rise in Omega-3s was very small.

At the same time with the rise in Omega-3s in those eating salmon, a drop was seen in blood levels of a number of pro-inflammatory chemicals (TNFalpha, IL-8, leukotriene B4, and thromboxane B2). Researchers think Omega-3s may be better absorbed from fish because fish contains these fats in the form of triglycerides, while the Omega-3s in almost all refined fish oils are in the ethyl ester form. Once absorbed, Omega-3s are converted by the body from their triglyceride to ester forms as needed.

So, if you are interested in obtaining Omega 3 via food instead of fish oil supplements, foods you should consume include: Salmon, flax seeds, flax seed oil, tuna, and walnuts are excellent food sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

General Recommendations

In regards to Omega 3 supplements, here are some specific recommendations:

• For healthy adults with no history of heart disease: The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (specifically Salmon) at least 2 times per week.

• For adults with coronary heart disease: The American Heart Association recommends an Omega 3 supplements (as fish oils), 1 gram daily of EPA and DHA. It may take 2 - 3 weeks for benefits of fish oil supplements to be seen.

• For adults with high cholesterol levels: The American Heart Association recommends an Omega 3 supplements (as fish oils), 2 - 4 grams daily of EPA and DHA. It may take 2 - 3 weeks for benefits of fish oil supplements to be seen.

• For those with arthritis, specifically rheumatoid arthritis, consume 3g (3000 mg) of fish oil (DHA/EPA) per day for a minimum of 12 weeks.

• Do not take more than 3 grams daily of omega-3 fatty acids from capsules without the supervision of a health care provider, due to an increased risk of bleeding.

• Omega-3 fatty acids should be used cautiously by people who bruise easily, have a bleeding disorder, or take blood-thinning medications including warfarin (Coumadin) or clopidogrel (Plavix). High doses of omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding.

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