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Omega-3 Fats May Help Keep Joints Free of Osteoarthritis

Woman adding more omega 3 fatty acid to her dietA new study suggests that including more Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet may help reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis (OA). A team of researchers from Duke University has presented compelling evidence to support the benefits that eating this healthy type of fat may hold for long-term joint health.

Currently, the predominant theory is that a person’s overall weight plays a larger role in determining their risk for OA. The experts from Duke theorize that it could actually have more to do with an individual’s overall diet.

“Our results suggest that dietary factors play a more significant role than mechanical factors in the link between obesity and osteoarthritis,” explained senior author Farshid Guilak, PhD.

Diet Trumps Poundage

You may have seen commercials or other material warning that being obese could make you more susceptible to osteoarthritis. This degenerative disease develops as the cartilage in the joints are worn down and can produce very painful symptoms. Experts believed assumed that a higher average body weight would explain why so many people over the age of 45 develop OA. Of course this theory didn’t provide much of an explanation as to why so many people have this form of arthritis in non-weight-bearing joints.

Full disclosure, the Duke researchers have only been able to work with mice, but the results are still noteworthy and applicable. They were able to identify a new predictive factor for osteoarthritis— abnormally low levels of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin in obese mice. What this means is that the underlying issue is metabolic in nature, not structural as was previously assumed.

“This made us think that maybe it’s not how much weight you gain, but what you eat,”recalls Guilak.

The investigators were able to observe the effects with a group of lab mice that had developed OA in an injured knee. The mice were then split up into groups and fed three separate diets:

  • One high in omega-6 fatty acids
  • One high in omega-6 fatty acids with a small amount of added omega-3s
  • One high in saturated fat

(Quick Fact: Did you know that 10 t0 15 percent of all OA cases are caused by some form of trauma or past injury.)

“A healthy diet would include roughly equal ratios of these fats, but we’re way off the scale in the Western diet,” says Guilak.

Nutritionists have been pushing away from the average Western diet for years, and now researchers are uncovering more about the long-term effects of a diet that is high in omega-6 and saturated fats.

Growing Support for the Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 supplements for arthritis patientsYou might be shocked to hear that the Duke team found no connection between a subject’s body weight and arthritis (it actually seems like weight could have a bigger impact on your pulmonary health). The two groups that weren’t supplemented with omega-3 exhibited worse OA symptoms over the study period. The mice that did get omega-3 added to their diet did not.

(You should know that Achieve is currently conducting a clinical trial for osteoarthritis, and are still enrolling subjects.)

“While omega 3 fatty acids aren’t reversing the injury, they appear to slow the progression of arthritis in this group of mice,” suggested Guilak. “In fact, omega 3 fatty acids eliminated the detrimental effects of obesity in obese mice.”

Even more intriguing was the omega-3 group’s improved ability to heal from an injury. Their bodies would repair the damage faster than in the subjects of the other two groups.

“We found that independent of body weight, dietary fatty acids regulate ear wound healing and severity of osteoarthritis following joint injury in obese mice,” explained Chia-Lung Wu, the lead author for this OA clinical study.

A growing body of evidence now supports the potent anti-inflammatory capabilities of omega-3 fatty acids. Prior research has shown how this can benefit people with conditions like fibromyalgia and reduce the risk of heart disease. This type of fat is also very beneficial for early brain development during infancy. Heck, omega-3 could even help reduce your risk for cancer.

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