Are you eating fish at least twice a week yet? Because if not, consider this yet another reminder of why you really, really should — especially if you struggle with chronic joint pain.
Fish oil has long been hailed as one of natural medicine’s most powerful inflammation-fighters — a real arthritis-relieving dynamo. And I recently came across a new study that underscores that reputation.
Not just for your run-of-the-mill case of wear-and-tear arthritis either. This research focused on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) — an autoimmune form of the condition, and easily one of the most debilitating chronic diseases in the medical books.
So the fact that RA patients may be able to find relief simply by eating more fish? Well I think you’ll agree, that’s pretty big deal.
Researchers arrived at this conclusion by analyzing the dietary habits of more than 175 patients in the Evaluation of Subclinical Cardiovascular Disease and Predictors of Events in RA (ESCAPE-RA) study. They examined responses to food frequency questionnaires as well as levels of DAS28-CRP — a measure of disease activity — to determine how increases in fish consumption could influence RA symptoms.
The answer? A lot, as it turns out.
Even after adjusting for a long list of factors — including demographic factors, use of anti-RA drugs, smoking habits, and the use of fish oil supplements — results revealed that levels of DAS28-CRP were .49 lower in patients who ate fish twice or more per week.
Put in plainer terms, that’s a third of the response typically achieved with methotrexate — a ravaging chemotherapy drug used to treat RA. And it gets better! Because every additional weekly serving of fish carried a further .18 reduction in DAS28-CRP.
So we’re not exactly talking small potatoes, here. And well, let’s see… chemotherapy or eating salmon for dinner? I know which strategy I’d prefer.
Of course, the naysayers have already chimed in, suggesting that maybe fish eaters are just healthier people with healthier lifestyles in the first place — which means the fish itself has nothing to do with it at all.
And this theory might actually be plausible… if we didn’t already have plenty of studies to back this one up.
These findings line right up with previous research showing that fish oil supplementation can boost RA remission rates and soothe painful joints. And knowing what we know about the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3 fats, it makes perfect sense.
Not that I expect fish oil to get the credit it’s due. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I worry that the mainstream medical establishment will use these latest results to subtly undermine the value of targeted supplementation — and to claim yet again you can get everything you need from what you put on your plate.
That’s simply not true, of course. At the very least, there’s the question of dosage. There’s no real way to say how much actual fish oil makes its way to your dinner plate, as oil leeches out of any food during cooking.
So unless you take standardized fish oil supplements, you will never know exactly how much fish oil — or to be more precise, how many of the anti-inflammatory benefits of the omega 3 fatty acids — you’re actually getting. (This is why I also recommend taking a supplement that lists EPA and DHA content — you want to be taking 3,000 mg total.)
But I’ll leave off my conspiracy theory cap and save it for another day. Because regardless, you could do way worse than striving to eat more fish.
Just make sure you steer clear of high-mercury options — and that you choose fish that’s both harvested sustainably and not endangered. Go to www.seafoodwatch.org to learn more about seafood that’s fished or farmed in sustainable ways. And keep checking back, because this list is updated often, based on reports, research, and expert recommendations.