Scientists have uncovered further evidence that cod liver oil can benefit people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. A study published in the journal Rheumatology showed that people taking a cod liver oil supplement could cut their reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs by more than 30 per cent.
Many patients with RA take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen. But in high doses these have been linked to side effects including increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and gastrointestinal bleeding. Doses given for conditions like arthritis are much higher than for use as occasional painkillers.
The new study, by experts at the Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee and the University of Dundee, both in Scotland, analysed 97 patients with RA who took NSAIDs. They were given either 10g of cod liver oil containing 2.2g of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, or dummy pills.
Details of NSAID dose and clinical indicators linked to RA disease activity were recorded at the start of the study and after four, 12, 24 and 36 weeks. At 12 weeks, patients were instructed to gradually reduce and, if possible, stop their NSAID intake.
A total of 58 patients (60 per cent) completed the study. Out of 49 patients in the cod liver oil group, 19 (39 per cent) were able to cut their daily NSAID requirement by more than 30 per cent at the nine month point. Out of 48 patients in the placebo group, just five (10 per cent) were able to reduce their daily NSAID requirement by more than 30 per cent.
Earlier studies, in 2002 and 2004, found cod liver oil to be effective in reversing the damage caused by RA.