Busting Up Arthritis with Fish Oil

Ifish oiln the last 2 articles we looked at how DHA seems to be beneficial in cardiovascular disease and how it doesn’t cause cancer. If you missed those you can access them here:

Cardiovascular disease: https://pharmacybrute.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/does-dha-work/

Cancer: https://pharmacybrute.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/does-dha-cause-cancer/

Arthritis, specifically rheumatoid arthritis seems to be a problem throughout all the world affecting an estimated 1% of the global population. 1% of 7 billion is 70 million. That’s a lot of people. The disease is autoimmune in nature. There are several theories as to why it starts in the first place. I personally happen to think it is related to the gut and gut bacteria. Whatever the cause, it can be seriously debilitating and alter the course of ones life forever. On top of that, medications to treat it aren’t without side effects and some can be incredibly expensive.

I’m hoping I can offer some hope to those who have suffered from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I don’t think this is a magic bullet but anything to reduce pain and inflammation is a plus in the quality of life department in my book.

In a mouse study (yes I know we don’t like these but bear with me), mice that were experimentally given rheumatoid arthritis did better with consumption of krill oil as assessed by hind paw swelling. They also saw a decrease in infiltration of immune cells in the synovia and joint spaces and reduced hyperplasia. 1 This means that the immune cells responsible for creating the problems weren’t getting into the spaces to cause the problems in the first place.

In a small study in humans (yes humans), researchers gave participants capsules filled with EPA and DHA at 171mg and 114mg respectively. 64 patients with RA were followed for a year who had been stable with NSAID therapy after they had been divided into two groups, treatment and placebo. 10 of these capsules were given or air-filled placebo. Those who got the 10 caps were able to significantly reduce their NSAID usage with no worsening of RA. 2

Another study used 3.6gm of n-3 in RA patients for a 12 week period. Only 1 marker seemed to decrease in the active supplement group, interleukin 1 beta. The clinical status of the active group improved with the n-3.3

olive oil

Olive oil is my favorite thing to put on my salad

In another study (this one is my favorite of the one’s listed so far in this article, I’ll explain why in a minute) subject were given a placebo (soybean oil….blah), 3gm/day fish oil, or 3gm/day fish oil and 6.4gm/day olive oil. This study was also small, 43 patients. Those in the fish oil group had clinical improvements in pain, stiffness, grip strength and bending.4 The group with both fish oil and olive oil had even greater improvements. At 24 weeks the olive oil group showed better ability to turn faucets on and off then the fish oil group. The reason why this was my favorite study…because they got to eat olive oil on salads. What better treatment than to get to eat a great salad with some oil to improve RA!

In another fish oil/olive oil study, a low dose fish oil, high dose fish oil, and olive oil groups were compared. Swollen joint number was decreased in both fish oil groups at 12, 18 and 24 weeks. Clinical measures of the disease were modified in the olive oil group (5 of 45), low dose fish oil (8 of 45) and high dose fish oil (21 of 45). The low dose fish oil was 27
mg EPA and 18 mg/kg DHA per day. High dose was 54 mg/kg EPA and 36 mg/kg DHA per day. Olive oil was 6.8gm/day or just around 10ml. 5

In a epidemiologic study there was an inverse correlation of incidence of RA with olive oil consumption and cooked vegetable consumption.6 This doesn’t prove that eating lots of vegetables and olive is going to prevent the disease, just that if you eat these you seem less likely to. Remember epidemiology doesn’t equal causation!

So if you are suffering from RA, fish oil and olive oil may be beneficial in helping you feel better. The thing I can’t say from these studies is that it was DHA by itself. The fish oil had its full complement of EPA as well. It would also be nice to get a big juicy fish…..I mean study to really pound the effect home to clinicians, but smaller studies will have to do for now, at least as far as RA is concerned. One other thing is that in these studies it took up to 12 weeks for manifestation of relief. If this is something you willing to try remember it probably won’t do much over a week or two, let alone over night. Patience! If anyone has any stories about this please share. And may you all enjoy some fish with a side salad covered in some good olive oil!


Disclaimer: All info on this website is for education purposes only. Any dietary or lifestyle changes that readers want to make should be done with the guidance of a competent medical practitioner. The author assumes no responsibility nor liability  for the use or dissemination of this information. Anyone who chooses to apply this information for their own personal use does so at their own risk.

1. Ierna, Michelle, et al. “Supplementation of diet with krill oil protects against experimental rheumatoid arthritis.” BMC musculoskeletal disorders 11.1 (2010): 136..


3. Espersen, G. T., et al. “Decreased interleukin-1 beta levels in plasma from rheumatoid arthritis patients after dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” Clinical rheumatology 11.3 (1992): 393-395.

4. Espersen, G. T., et al. “Decreased interleukin-1 beta levels in plasma from rheumatoid arthritis patients after dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” Clinical rheumatology 11.3 (1992): 393-395.

5. Kremer, Joel M., et al. “Dietary fish oil and olive oil supplementation in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis clinical and immunologic effects.” Arthritis & Rheumatism 33.6 (1990): 810-820.

6.Linos, Athena, et al. “Dietary factors in relation to rheumatoid arthritis: a role for olive oil and cooked vegetables?.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 70.6 (1999): 1077-1082.