Could relief for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms be as close as the nearest seafood restaurant? Possibly, say researchers from Harvard.
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Explore This IssueJuly 2018
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University who recently conducted a cross-sectional study. Published in the March issue of Arthritis Care & Research, the research examined whether consuming fresh fish could ease RA symptoms.1
Previous studies have examined the role fish oil may play in reducing RA symptoms, but this was the first to look at whether consuming fresh fish as a whole food could provide the same benefits as a fish oil supplement.2
Sara Tedeschi, MD, a rheumatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the study’s lead author, says researchers assessed 76 patients with moderate RA who were part of a larger heart disease study. A questionnaire looked at their diets over the past year and asked how frequently they ate fish.
As with fish oil supplements, the benefits of eating fresh fish are thought to stem from the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids.
“We found people with RA who ate fish at least twice a week reported less joint swelling and tenderness than those who rarely or never consumed fish,” Dr. Tedeschi says.
Researchers looked specifically at responses to questions on how often people ate tuna, salmon, sardines and other fish, such as halibut, sole and grouper, that was prepared raw (poke), broiled, steamed or baked. Shellfish (such as shrimp, scallops and crab), fried fish and fish in mixed dishes were all excluded.
Dr. Tedeschi says she and her colleagues measured RA disease activity severity using the Disease Activity Score 28-C-Reactive Protein (DAS28-CRP) metric, which measures tenderness, pain and inflammation throughout a patient’s body. Patients in the study had a median DAS28-CRP score of 3.5, indicating moderate RA.
“Eating fish at least twice a week resulted in a reduction of nearly half a point in the DAS28-CRP score compared with eating it once a month or not at all,” Dr. Tedeschi says. “In addition, every additional portion of fish consumed each week was associated with a 0.18 drop in DAS28-CRP scores.”
‘Every additional portion of fish consumed each week was associated with a 0.18 drop in DAS28-CRP scores.’ —Dr. Tedeschi
An Alternative to Supplements
Because the study was a cross-sectional analysis rather than an intervention study, Dr. Tedeschi says additional research is needed to confirm the link between regular fish consumption and RA, and whether consuming fish actually causes the RA symptom improvement.