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Nov 11, 2011

Prevent Osteoarthritis with Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have long been recognized as offering a wide spectrum of health benefits for those that get adequate amounts through diet and/or supplementation.  Recent research has demonstrated the potential for fish oil to significantly improve the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis.  Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD) and involves the wearing away of protective cartilage on the ends of bones, often leading to joint pain, stiffness, and degradation.  The most common joints affected are the hands, neck, lower back, knees, and hips.    

A study published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage found that diets rich in omega-3s fed to guinea pigs lowered osteoarthritis by half compared to standard diets.  Since guinea pigs have a natural tendency for developing osteoarthritis, they were the chosen candidates for the study.  

Omega-3s coming from either fish oil or flaxseed oil appear to slow down or prevent the development osteoarthritis.  Fish oil tends to be more effective, but in the case of vegetarians, flaxseed oil can be a good option.  According to lead researcher Dr. John Tarlton, from the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences, omega-3s reduce collagen breakdown in cartilage as well as reduce loss of the molecules required for shock absorption.  Although this particular study was looking at the effects of omega-3s in guinea pigs, Dr. Tarlton stated that “…All of the evidence supports the use of omega-3 in human disease.”     

In the United States and other developed countries, diets tend to be significantly lacking in omega-3 fatty acids and overabundant in the omega-6 fatty acids.  An imbalanced ratio of these essential fatty acids tends to promote inflammation in the body, encouraging more development of chronic diseases like heart disease and arthritis.  

Dr. Shana McQueen