Research: SHAPIRO and colleagues, D

Listed in Issue 24


SHAPIRO and colleagues, Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle USA note that it has been hypothesised by researchers that omega-3 fatty acids found mainly in fish oils, may be protective against rheumatoid arthritis.



The authors conducted a case-control study in women, comparing 324 rheumatoid arthritis cases with 1,245 control cases. A food frequency questionnaire was used to determine diet during a 1-year period 5 years prior to a reference date the first visit to the physician with joint symptoms.


Consumption of broiled or baked, but not other types of fish was associated with a decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis . Compared to eating less than one serving of broiled or baked fish per week, the adjusted odds ratios (OR) for eating 1-2 servings per week were 0.78 and for eating more than 2 servings were 0.57. There was also an association of protein as a percentage of calories, with the adjusted OR for the top quartile compared with the bottom quartile = 0.65 and total calories adjusted OR for the top quartile = 1.62. The associations with broiled or baked fish, protein and calories became stronger when the analysis was restricted to cases positive for rheumatoid factor.


These data support the hypothesis that omega-3 fatty acids may help to prevent rheumatoid arthritis .


Shapiro JA et al. Diet and rheumatoid arthritis in women: a possible protective effect of fish consumption. Epidemiology 7(3): 256-63. May 1996.


Rheumatoid arthritis is a complex disease. The above research studies indicate that psychological factors including stress, coping strategies and dietary practices consumption of fish - may all influence the degree of pain and quality of life for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis. Clinically, as with asthma, heart disease and HIV, an integrative treatment approach for RA shouldnt just involve throwing steroids at the problem - it should combine careful individual assessments of psychological, emotional, nutritional and physical treatment modalities.

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