Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Alleviate Symptoms of Bechterews Disease

Study Shows EPAX 5500 TG Concentrated Fish Oil Supplement Provided Relief of Ankylosing Spondylitis Pain

AALESUND, Norway (Jan. 31, 2007) -- Results from a clinical study of patients living north of the polar circle in Sweden and suffering from Ankylosing Spondolitis, or Bechterews disease, a chronic rheumatic disease mainly affecting joints of the spine, were recently presented in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology by Bjorn Sundstrom. The study (1) demonstrates that treatment with marine- based Omega-3 fatty acids may provide relief of symptoms in Bechterew patients and possibly also delay disease progression as has been observed in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Bechterews disease, also known as ankylosing spondylitis, is a chronic rheumatic disease mainly affecting joints of the spine and often the larger joints of the extremities. It is more common in males than females and is closely related to a genetic marker of white blood cells, the so-called HLA-B27 antigen. This marker is especially common in people living in polar and sub-polar regions. In North Sweden this genetic pattern is found in 17 percent of the population leading to a prevalence of developing Bechterews disease of .5 percent. Inuits, the native peoples of the northern region of North America and Greenland have an even higher risk of developing the disease. Surprisingly, though, the risk of getting the disease in this region is low, and if it has developed, the symptoms are usually mild. The reason for this has been unknown until now.

The use of omega-3 fatty acids having anti-inflammatory properties for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is well established in Scandinavia but no such information had previously been reported in Bechterew patients.

In order to examine whether patients would respond positively to
omega-3 fatty acid treatment 24 patients were randomly allocated to a high-dose omega-3 regimen given 4.5 grams daily or a low-dose regimen with two grams daily. The patients were followed for 21 weeks. The
omega-3 product used was EPAX 5500 TG, a condition-specific, marine- derived, concentrate with 55 percent EPA/DHA fatty acids, from EPAX AS, Lysaker, Norway.

At the end of the study disease activity was significantly reduced in the high-dose group with fewer patient-reported symptoms. Some patients reported even an increased mental alertness. However, no effect was observed in the low-dose group. Dosage of omega-3 fatty acids is essential since doses of three grams or more are needed for achieving effects (2). In the present study, positive effects were only recorded in the high-dose group.

"Perhaps this study from North Sweden sheds light on the mystery why Inuits having the genetic marker for developing Bechterews do not develop the disease very often," said Sundstrom. Traditionally, the Inuits have a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating salmon and sea mammals that provide a regular daily intake of these fatty acids that have well-documented anti-inflammatory properties. Such a dietary regimen could be sufficient to curtail a genetic preponderance for developing the disease."

Sundstrom noted that in North Sweden, however, the inhabitants have a more general non-marine diet and may therefore be more disposed to developing Bechterews disease than those with marine-heavy diets. The present study clearly indicates that patients with Bechterews disease may benefit from a treatment with omega-3 fatty acids. Such a dietary regimen could eventually be sufficient to curtail a genetic preponderance for developing the disease."

1) Sundstrom B, et al. Supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids in
patients with ankylosing spondylitis. Scand J Rheumatol 2006;35:359-362
2) Fortin PR et al. The effects of fish oil in rheumatoid arthritis;
validation of a meta-analysis. J Clin Epidemiol 1995; 48:1379-1390

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