Women who have diets high in omega-3 fatty acids from fish are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those who eat very little fish, new research from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm suggests.
Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a misguided immune system attack on the joints, which leads to chronic and widespread inflammation. The disease is characterized by joint inflammation, deformities and disability.
The research team followed over 32,000 women born between 1914 and 1948 who were part of the Swedish Mammography Cohort. Information about fish consumption was gathered from diet questionnaires sent to women in 1987 and 1997.
Women were separated into five groups based on the amount of fish-based omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.
Over the course of more than seven years, long-term consumption of more than one serving of fatty fish each week was tied to a lower risk of developing the condition.
Eating fatty fish once a week cut arthritis risk in half
Women whose diets provided more than 0.21 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day had a 52 percent lower risk of developing the disease, compared to women whose diets contained the least.
Getting 0.21 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day equates to eating a 3.5 ounce of salmon once a week, or four servings of lean fish such as cod per week.
The researchers concluded that moderate fish consumption is sufficient to reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. The findings are also in line with past research linking higher omega-3 intake with lower disease activity in people who already have rheumatoid arthritis.
The study looked only at fish intake, not fish oil supplements. Omega-3 fats in fish help reduce inflammation in the body. Plus, fish provides other nutrients important for overall health, and can take the place of less-healthy choices, such as red meat.
Source: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, online August 12, 2013.
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