The Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases Medical Journal recently published a large-scale study online, which reveals some interesting findings concerning fish-rich diets and their direct link to the considerable reduction of the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The long-term study was spread out over a decisive period of 96 years, with the initial participation demographic comprised out of over 32, 000 women.
The dietary ingestion of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) was a particular point of interest as PUFAs had historically been shown to bear anti-inflammatory qualities. The data collection procedures of the study, further, played out as follows:
- Collection of the results of a 1987-1990 questionnaire, completed by subjects who were residents of Sweden's two counties, about dietary habits, height, weight, education and motherhood.
- Collection of information on smoking habits, aspirin and dietary supplement use as well as exercise habits, in 1997. This was conducted through a questionnaire, as a follow-up on those women who took part in the previous 1987-1990 questionnaire (those who were still alive).
- Collection of current health state information (2003-2010) of the women born between 1914 and 1948, as part of the Swedish Mammography Cohort study.
The all-important control of the study came in the form of the dietary-habit information collected via the questionnaires, with a selection of fatty and lean fish foods tabled as part of the dietary options forming part of the participants' diets.
"This study is the first to attribute the protective effect of fish against rheumatoid arthritis to its content of omega-3 fatty acids." - Daniela Di Giuseppe, a doctoral student at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and lead author of the study.
A number of other very interesting findings were revealed from the study (1914-2010), and the subsequent examination period (2003-2010), but with regards to the relationship between omega 3 PUFAs and the development of rheumatoid arthritis, the indication is that regular, weekly consumption of fatty fish (rich in omega 3 PUFAs) can reduce the risks of developing rheumatoid arthritis by up to 52%. The optimal intake of omega 3 PUFAs, in a bid to decrease the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by over 50%, as suggested by the results of the study, amounts to 1.47g per week, which is equivalent to four lean fish servings per week or one fatty fish serving per week.
"The inverse association between fish consumption and rheumatoid arthritis can be attributed mainly to its content of omega 3 PUFAs," conclude the authors, who add that their findings indicate a potentially important role for these substances in the prevention of the development of the disease.
For the full effects of the contents of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids to be felt, in effectively lowering the risk of the development of rheumatoid arthritis, intake has to be facilitated at regular intervals and this intake has to be consistent over the long-term. While a weekly helping of fatty fish such as salmon or four weekly servings of lean fish (e.g. cod) would suffice, incorporating bite-sized portions of fish into the weekly menu can prove to be rather challenging at times.
This is where dietary supplements come into play, with some of the high quality options available doing well to make the process of weekly, long-term intake of omega-3 PUFAs that much easier.
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