Rheumatoid arthritis: Regular fish intake may ease symptoms
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis might want to increase their fish intake; a new study suggests that regular fish consumption may help to alleviate symptoms of the condition.
Researchers found that eating fish at least twice weekly led to a reduction in disease activity among people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), compared with eating fish less than once per month.
What is more, reduced disease activity was achieved with every additional portion of fish consumed each week.
Study leader Dr. Sara Tedeschi, of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, MA, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.
RA is a chronic, progressive condition in which the immune system mistakingly attacks the joints, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain. RA can affect any joint, but it most commonly occurs in the joints of the wrists and hands. Over time, inflammation of the joints may lead to a breakdown of cartilage, which is the connective tissue that protects the ends of bones. This can lead to joint deformities and mobility problems.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, around 1.5 million people in the United States are living with RA.
There is no cure for RA, but symptoms may be managed through lifestyle changes, medication, and, in some cases, surgery. Some of these therapies can also help to slow disease progression.
Based on the new study findings, Dr. Tedeschi and colleagues suggest that a simple dietary change may help to ease symptoms for patients with RA: increasing fish intake.
High fish intake poses benefits
1. Fish is High in Important Nutrients That Most People Don’t Get Enough of
Generally speaking, all types of fish are good for you.
They are high in many nutrients that most people aren’t getting enough of.
This includes high-quality protein, iodine and various vitamins and minerals.
However, some fish are better than others, and the fatty types of fish are considered the healthiest.
That’s because fatty fish (like salmon, trout, sardines, tuna and mackerel) are higher in fat-based nutrients.
This includes the fat-soluble vitamin D, a nutrient that most people are deficient in. It functions like a steroid hormone in the body.
Fatty fish are also much higher in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are crucial for your body and brain to function optimally, and are strongly linked to reduced risk of many diseases.
To meet your omega-3 requirements, eating fatty fish at least once or twice a week is recommended.
2. Fish May Lower Your Risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes
Heart attacks and strokes are the two most common causes of premature death in the world
Fish is generally considered to be among the best foods you can eat for a healthy heart.
Not surprisingly, many large observational studies have shown that people who eat fish regularly seem to have a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes and death from heart disease
In one study of more than 40,000 male health professionals in the US, those who regularly ate 1 or more servings of fish per week had a 15% lower risk of heart disease
Researchers believe that the fatty types of fish are even more beneficial for heart health, because of their high amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Fish Contains Nutrients That Are Crucial During Development
Omega-3 fatty acids are absolutely essential for growth and development.
The omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is especially important, because it accumulates in the developing brain and eye .
For this reason, it is often recommended that expecting and nursing mothers make sure to eat enough omega-3 fatty acids.
However, there is one caveat with recommending fish to expecting mothers. Some fish is high in mercury, which ironically is linked to brain developmental problems.
For this reason, pregnant women should only eat fish that are low in the food chain (salmon, sardines, trout, etc), and no more than 12 ounces (340 grams) per week.
Pregnant women should also avoid raw and uncooked fish (including sushi), because it may contain microorganisms that can harm the fetus.
Bottom Line: Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which is essential for development of the brain and eyes. It is recommended that expecting and nursing mothers make sure to eat enough omega-3s.