A Low Dose of Fish Oil Enough for Arthritis Relief and Heart Health?

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Pharma companies hate supplements as they are really bad for business, especially ones that work. Fish oil has been lauded and maligned in study after study as it seems to be effective here but not there. Now a new study again finds that a low dose of fish oil may be enough to help with both arthritis and heart health. Let me explain.

What You Need to Know About Fish Oil

Fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, and in the body these convert into long-chain fatty acids known as DHA and EPA. The human body doesn’t produce omega-3s, but they are essential fatty acids, and oily fish and shellfish are the ideal sources. Studies suggest DHA is good for brain function while EPA is beneficial for joint function and arthritis.

The problem with just getting these important fatty acids from fish is that you have to eat a lot of it to get enough, more servings per week than the average American consumes. I’ve talked about the Inuit (Eskimo) population before and the fact that fish makes up a hardy portion of their diet—they even garnish their fish with even more fish oil. Many of the chronic diseases that are so rampant elsewhere seem to be mostly nonexistent among the Inuit people, and many have attributed this to their fish-heavy diets.

So for the rest of us, we may need to supplement with fish oil for our bodies to fully benefit from DHA and EPA fatty acids, though maybe not with as much as we once thought. Two of those benefits, one study shows, is arthritis relief and heart health.

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Your Joints and Heart May Benefit Even from a Low Dose of Fish Oil

The new study was conducted using an aggregation of relevant osteoarthritis studies over the past ten-plus years. With the understanding that metabolic syndrome (obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, etc.) is associated with arthritis, researchers were looking for what specific part certain health and dietary indicators play in the progression of arthritis. These included obesity, polyunsaturated fatty acids, cholesterol, and vitamins such as A, C, D, K, and so on.

The results? In the area of obesity, for example, researchers stressed that weight increases pressure on joints, such as the hips and knees, and is associated with low-grade chronic inflammation independent of that added pressure. Researchers found that arthritis inflammation was reduced, thereby relieving pain and improving function, with the consumption of a low dose of long-chain (n-3) fatty acids in fish oil. Specifically, just 1 gram (or 1,000 mg) per day, which is encouraging as this can be achieved with just one to two capsules per day with high-quality fish oil supplements.

A low dose of fish oil and other supplements can only do so much on their own however. The study also emphasized that reducing weight with a proper diet and exercise was, understandably, important for improving arthritis as well as heart health. High cholesterol and low vitamin K are also associated with arthritis, both of which may improve with a proper diet and exercise. Other studies have also associated the consumption of a low dose of fish oil with cardiovascular benefits, again, emphasizing the importance of exercise.

What Else Do We Know About Fish Oil?

Fish oil makes an appearance on this blog occasionally as there seems to be a never-ending list of benefits. Let’s take a look at what else we know about fish oil:

One thing it’s important to understand is that regardless of the dose you are taking, it’s imperative that the fish oil you choose is high quality (learn more about how to determine a high-quality fish oil at this link).

The upshot? In yet another study, fish oil seems to help. However, the results of these studies seem to go back and forth. Why? Supplements don’t have the compelling business plan of pharma drugs, so they tend to get no love from academics involved in pharma research. In the meantime, my fish oil ran out during vacation, so you can rest assured that I’m buying more!

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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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