The relationship between osteoarthritis and omega-3 fatty acid consumption has been the subject of numerous clinical, laboratory and animal studies over the years. Only recently have scientists begun to explain how and why omega-3 and inflammation are conversely related.
Inflammation is a normal immune system response to infection or injury. But, at times, inflammation is excessive. And in some cases, the immune system is responding inappropriately to signals sent out by the cells, or the cells are sending inappropriate signals. In either of these three cases, the immune system is overreacting, going slightly “haywire” or dysfunctional.
At first, research concerning osteoarthritis and omega-3 fatty acid consumption focused on the patient’s assessment of pain relief. More and more research is now being done concerning the chemical reactions that occur within the body on a cellular level after omega-3 supplementation.
This research is important, not only to provide a better understanding of the relationship between supplemental omega-3 and inflammation, but also to support clinical reports of pain relief and to assess the value of using supplementation to help treat other conditions. Researchers at Cardiff University used cell models to simulate the breakdown of cartilage that occurs in arthritis.
They found that omega-3 supplementation decreases the breakdown, but that omega-6 fatty acids are ineffective. Regretfully, most people, particularly in Western countries, consume more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. We need both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in the diet, but there are many sources of omega 6s and only a few sources for omega-3s. The best known source of omega 3 fatty acids is purified fish oil.
In regard to omega-3 and inflammation, the Cardiff researchers found that omega 3s interfere with the inflammatory process on a cellular level. There conclusion concerning osteoarthritis and omega-3 supplementation was that the data they collected supported supplementation and further that there may be a “beneficial effect in slowing and reducing inflammation in the pathogenesis of degenerative joint diseases in man. ”
Researchers at the University of Southampton conducted research in 2006 concerning supplementation of omega 3 and inflammation reduction. They found that omega 3s decrease the production of inflammatory agents and inflammatory cytokines (a type of protein released by cells of the immune system), has anti-oxidant and anti-coagulant activity. This research supports the use of omega-3s from fish and fish oils for the treatment and prevention of numerous diseases.
Choosing the right supplement is important. Some supplements derived from flaxseed oil contain only ALA, which the body can convert to DHA and EPA fatty acids, but the process sometimes happens inefficiently. Southampton researchers found that ALA did not appear to exert anti-inflammatory effects at amounts that a person could easily consume. So, at least for omega-3 and inflammation prevention or relief, fish oil is still the best choice, as long as it's molecularly distilled.
Recommendations concerning osteoarthritis and omega-3 supplementation vary. Some doctors and scientists would like to see more research before making recommendations. Some, on the other hand, believe that there is enough evidence to support the use of daily fish oil supplements and recommend at least 1000mg per day of high quality fish oil containing both DHA and EPA fatty acids.
Dan Ho is editor of http://www.omega-3-fish-oil-guide.com
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