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Increased intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce arthritis risk

Published on

30 September 2013

Adequate intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may decrease long-term the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis for women by up to 50%, suggests a new study from Sweden.

The observational study analyzed the potential association between intakes of dietary long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (estimated based on food-frequency questionnaires) and the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) among 32,232 middle-aged and older women over a mean of 7.5 years (1). The study results showed that – after adjustment for RA risk factors such as age, cigarette smoking and alcohol intake – omega-3 fatty acid intakes of more than 0.21 g/day were linked to a 35% decreased risk of developing RA, compared with lower intakes, while long-term intakes consistently higher than 0.21 g/day were associated with a 52% reduced risk. Consistent long-term consumption of at least one serving of fatty fish per week was associated with a 29% decrease in RA risk compared with less fish consumption.

The researchers concluded that these findings support the hypothesis that dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in the development of RA, one of the most common autoimmune diseases, which results in chronic inflammation of the joints. Epidemiological studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may have a preventative effect in inflammatory conditions including RA (2). Results from several randomized controlled trials have revealed that a supplementation is effective in reducing joint pain, duration of morning stiffness, the number of tender or swollen joints and drug usage in RA patients (3, 4). Latest research indicates that eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are converted in vivo into lipid mediators (termed resolvins) with strong anti-inflammatory and inflammation resolving properties (5).


  1. Di Giuseppe D. et al. Long-term intake of dietary long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of rheumatoid arthritis: a prospective cohort study of women. Ann Rheum Dis. Published online August 2013.
  2. Simopoulos A. P. Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002; 21:495–505.
  3. Calder P. C. Session 3: Joint Nutrition Society and Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute Symposium on ‘Nutrition and autoimmune disease’ PUFA, inflammatory processes and rheumatoid arthritis. Proc Nutr Soc. 2008; 67:409–418.
  4. Goldberg R. J. and Katz J. A meta-analysis of the analgesic effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for inflammatory joint pain. Pain. 2007; 129:210–223.
  5. Norling L. V. and Perretti M. The role of omega-3 derived resolvins in arthritis. Current Opinion in Pharmacology. 2013; 13(3):476–481.

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