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Effects of omega-3 fatty acids in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Researchers at State Hospital Muerzzuschlag, in Austria looked for changes in swollen and tender joints.

First, the details.

  • 23 patients with moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis were assigned to a treatment group.
    • Either 0.2 grams of fish oil emulsion/kg (active) or 0.9% saline (placebo) was injected for 14 consecutive days.
    • Then, 20 weeks of 0.05 grams of fish oil/kg (active) or paraffin wax (placebo) was taken by mouth as capsules.
  • A decrease in swollen and tender joint counts was the primary efficacy measure.
  • Neither the patients nor researchers knew the treatment given -- double blind.

And, the results.

  • At the start of treatment, the number of swollen and tender joints was not significantly different between treatment groups.
  • Swollen joint count was significantly lower in the omega-3 group vs placebo after 1 and 2 weeks of injections.
  • Tender joint count tended to be lower in the omega-3 group, although the difference between groups didn't achieve significance.
  • Both swollen and tender joint counts were significantly lower in the omega-3 FA group vs placebo during and at the end of oral treatment.

The bottom line?

It's a small study with encouraging results, which should be repeated in a larger population.

Others have reported that taking 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids supplements each day reduced the need of indomethacin (Indocin) therapy.