Diet and Arthritis? Taking Fish Oil Counteracts the Arthritis Effects of Bad Fats

diet and arthritis

Are diet and arthritis linked? There’s an immense amount of research on fish oil as an anti-inflammatory and a substance that seems to help reduce heart disease risk. An interesting study puts a new twist on the fish oil and arthritis research. This study identifies that bad fats (saturated) aid arthritis and that this effect can be counteracted by taking fish oil-at least in mice.

Omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil have some interesting research supporting their use in arthritis patients. They are anti-inflammatory and seem to also reduce the bad cellular chemicals produced by fat (adipokines). Saturated fats are things like butter or the fats found in red meats. There’s a bit less research on how saturated fats impact arthritis. In fact, I could only find one study that seemed to link the painful swelling in the bone commonly seen in arthritis (bone marrow lesions) to patients who eat more saturated fats.

In this study, researchers fed mice saturated fat diets and then injured the cartilage in their knees and compared the ability of the wound to repair itself. Some mice also were fed fish oil in addition to the saturated fat. Interestingly, while the high fat only mice had poor repair of their knee cartilage lesions with degeneration, the high fat plus fish oil group had much better repair and less arthritis onset.

The upshot? First, realize that mice have different dietary requirements than people, so I always take these kind of results from animal models with a grain of salt. Having said that, this is an interesting study because it takes fish oil from a preventative supplement or one that seems to help arthritis symptoms and elevates it to a supplement that may help overweight patients repair cartilage better. That’s pretty cool stuff if it holds up in human studies. What should you do? Since there’s pretty good data that high dose fish oil helps joint pain and the heart, I’m not sure there’s much downside to trying this one out!

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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