Can Fatty Fish Tame Your RA Symptoms?

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Eating fatty fish like tuna, salmon, trout, sole, halibut, or grouper at least twice a week may help ease your rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms, suggest findings from a study published last year in Arthritis Care & Research.

RA is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in joints and various organs. Some past clinical trials have associated fish oil supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids-known to help calm inflammation-with reduced RA disease activity.

In the new study, researchers investigated whether eating fish could also reduce disease activity. The researchers assessed surveys completed over one year by 176 patients ages 45 to 85 with long-standing RA. Most were simultaneously taking a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD), which has an anti-inflammatory effect. Patients who ate baked, steamed, broiled, or raw fish two or more times a week reported up to a 49 percent decrease in symptoms, such as swollen and tender joints, when compared with patients who ate fish less than once a month. That group also included some people who used fish oil supplements.

The study couldn’t establish that regularly eating fish directly reduces RA symptoms, so more research is needed before doctors can recommend fish consumption to curtail RA symptoms.Still, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish have been linked to a variety of health benefits, particularly for the heart. They may, for instance, help prevent arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) and blood clots and help lower triglycerides (fats in the blood) and blood pressure.