March 25, 2008

Cod Oil Offers Hope to Arthritis Patients

Researchers looking for an alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), found that 10g of cod liver oil each day could be beneficial for people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

The Dundee University team published their study in the journal "ËœRheumatalogy.' Their findings showed that by taking a cod liver oil supplement, people could reduce their reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs by more than 30 percent.

Professor Jill Belch at the University of Dundee School of Medicine led the study that analyzed 97 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were taking NSAIDs. Participants received either 10g of cod liver oil or a placebo. Indicators linked to the condition were documented at the start of the study and after four, 12, 24 and 36 weeks.

"The main objective of the study was to assess whether RA patients were able to reduce their NSAID intake without any worsening of their disease activity. This was achieved in all of the clinical parameters studied," they wrote.

A total of 58 completed the study, after they were told to gradually reduce or stop their NSAID usage.

Of the 49 patients taking cod liver oil, 19 were able to cut their daily NSAID usage by more than 30 percent after nine months.

Only five of the 48 patients in the placebo group were able to reduce their daily NSAID intake by more than 30 percent.

"This study suggests that cod liver oil supplements containing n-3 fatty acids can be used as NSAID-sparing agents in RA patients," authors said.

Some reported side effects of NSAIDs have been known for a long time, including an increased risk of stomach bleeding.

Belch said the study should offer hope to patients with rheumatoid arthritis who want to reduce their NSAID intake.

"Every change in medication should be discussed with a GP but I would advise people to give cod liver oil a try for 12 weeks alongside their NSAIDs and then try to cut it down if they can manage it but if they don't manage it, that's fine," she said.

"If you can get off NSAIDs it will be much safer."

Dr. Andrew Bamji, president of the British Society for Rheumatology said the study was too small to make solid conclusions, while echoing the possible hope it offers patients.

"Anything that can help to reduce NSAID use is going to be safer for patients," Bamji said. It does look as if the results are positive and that is quite interesting.

"I would say to patients by all means take cod liver oil and when you feel ready start to reduce your NSAID dose."

Bamji echoed Belch's advice that patients discuss plans with their doctor.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects about 350,000 people in the UK, where the study was conducted. Of that number, women are more likely to suffer from the condition than men. Rheumatoid arthritis also adds to the risk of strokes and heart attacks.


On the Net:


Dundee University

British Society for Rheumatology

National Arthritis Foundation