Omega-3 in the prevention of rheumatoid arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a faulty immune system (that mistakenly attacks the joints, causing the tissue that lines the inside of joints to thicken), and mainly affects the wrist and small joints of the hand, producing pain, stiffness (worst in the morning), swelling and limited motion and function… Not to mention the difficulty of putting on rings! As the 1-3% of women who get rheumatoid arthritis in their lifetime well know (in women, it most commonly begins between ages 30 and 60, but it can start at any age). It is important to know that those who receive early treatment feel better sooner and more often, and are more likely to lead an active life (hands are so indispensable), and that when the disease is not well controlled, it is related with a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Possible complications also include carpal tunnel syndrome, and inflammation of other areas of the body (lungs, heart and eyes). Again, it is important to be physically active most of the time (walking, and doing exercises to boost muscle strength), but rest is helpful when a joint is inflamed; in this case, we can do only gentle exercises, in order to keep the joint flexible.

A research with people without rheumatoid arthritis, but with genetic risk for it, has found that there is an inverse association between CCP antibodies (whose presence helps to diagnose the disease) and omega-3 supplement use. This suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may protect against the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Prevention is always the best policy.



Gan RW, Young KA, Zerbe GO et al. Lower omega-3 fatty acids are associated with the presence of anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide autoantibodies in a population at risk for future rheumatoid arthritis: a nested case-control study. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2015 Sep 13. pii: kev266. [Epub ahead of print]