A new study published in the journal Rheumatology has found that taking 10g of cod liver oil each day may reduce the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) allowing sufferers to reduce their use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) by 30 percent or more.
97 patients took part in the nine month study which involved individuals being randomly assigned to a group receiving either a 10g cod liver oil capsule each day or an air filled placebo capsule. The participants were asked to gradually reduce or stop their NSAID intake.
At the conclusion of the study, 39% of the cod liver oil group were able to reduce their intake of NSAID’s by at least 30% while only 10% of the placebo group were able to reduce their NSAID intake by the same amount. Overall the cod liver oil group were able to reduce NSAID intake by an average of 40% while the placebo group achieved only a 16% reduction in NSAID usage.
Patients in the cod liver oil group also reported a significant reduction in pain as measured by the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) compared to those in the placebo group.
While NSAID’s are relatively safe, their long term use can cause gastrointestinal problems including stomach ulcers, vomiting, and diarrhea. They may also increase the risk of cardiovascular events such as strokes and heart attacks, particularly in the elderly. There is also some evidence that long term, high dose use of non-aspirin NSAID’s increases the risk of kidney cancer. For these reasons, doctors advise against long term, high dose usage of NSAID’s when possible. The most common NSAID’s used by arthritis sufferers include aspirin, ibuprofen. voltaren, naproxen, and celebrex.
According to Alisa Bosworth, who is the United Kingdom National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society chief executive “People with rheumatoid arthritis still rely heavily on NSAID’s, even though the safety of these drugs is under scrutiny.”
Researchers believe the anti-inflammatory properties of the omega 3 essential fatty acids, DHA and EPA, which are found in high levels in cod liver oil are behind the reductions in pain. A 10g serving of cod liver oil typically contains 2.2g of these essential fatty acids although some high potency formulations may provide more. Although 10g is quite a high daily dose, fish oil capsules have an excellent safety profile and side effects are seldom observed in doses as high as 25g a day.
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