Eating fish two or more times each week may help reduce pain and swelling for people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a new study published online in Arthritis Care & Research.
In the study of 172 individuals with RA, those who consumed fish 2 times per week had lower disease activity than those who ate fish less than once per month. As study participants increased the amount of fish they ate weekly, their disease activity score lowered, the observational study found.
“We wanted to investigate whether eating fish as a whole food would have a similar kind of effect as the omega 3 fatty acid supplements,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Sara Tedeschi, an associate physician of rheumatology, immunology and allergy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA.
The scientists cannot prove that the fish consumption was solely responsible for the observed benefits, noting that people who regularly eat fish may also be generally healthier with better eating habits.
Tedeschi acknowledged this was a relatively small observational study that was not randomized, so the researchers were unable to make definitive conclusions. Nonetheless, the authors wrote, “This is a novel analysis of the relationship between consuming fish as a whole food, rather than consuming fish oil supplements, and rheumatoid disease activity.”
Tedeschi also noted that the difference in disease activity between the groups was the same percentage as what’s been observed in clinical studies of methotrexate – the standard of care for RA.
“If our finding holds up in other studies, it suggests that fish consumption may lower inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis disease activity,” she said. “Fish consumption has been noted to have many beneficial health effects, and our findings may give patients with rheumatoid arthritis a strong reason to increase fish consumption.”