Does Fish Oil Help With Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Fish OilFish oil contains high amounts of two omega-3 fatty acids: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). As with GLA, the body can use omega-3s to make substances that reduce inflammation.
Effectiveness and safety information:
- There is some encouraging evidence from a number of laboratory studies, animal studies, and clinical trials about the potential usefulness of fish oil or omega-3 supplementation for various aspects of rheumatoid arthritis -- such as the number of tender joints, morning stiffness, and the need for NSAIDs. However, more research is needed to definitively answer various questions, including what the most effective dosage or length of treatment would be, which people would benefit most, and whether a placebo effect is at work.
- In some people, the high amounts of omega-3s that are present in fish oil can increase the risk of bleeding or affect the time it takes blood to clot. For people taking drugs that affect bleeding and people who are about to have surgery, this is of special concern. Fish oil supplements interact with medicines for high blood pressure, so taking them together might lower a person's blood pressure too much.
- Certain species of fish can contain high levels of contaminants, such as mercury, from the environment. Because of this, their oils could pose a health risk, especially for pregnant or nursing women and for children. The fish that the federal government has found to have the highest levels of mercury are shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. People who decide to use fish oil should look for products made from fish with lower mercury levels. Government information on this topic is available. You may have to contact the manufacturer to find out the type(s) of fish used in a product. Also, it is desirable to find out whether the manufacturer tests the product for contaminating substances and if the results of those tests are available.
- Another point to note about safety is that a product called fish liver oil can contain more vitamin A than the recommended daily dosage, which could cause problems.
- Generally, for low doses of fish oil supplements, the side effects are mild and can include a fishy aftertaste, belching, stomach disturbances, and nausea.