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Osteoarthritis symptoms ‘lessened by boosting fish oil intake’

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One gram of fish oil a day and other simple dietary changes could help reduce the pain of patients with osteoarthritis, according to a review of studies by UK researchers.

In what they describe as the largest, most up to date study of its kind, researchers examined the link between diet and the effective self-management of osteoarthritis.

“The importance of a good diet and regular exercise should never be underestimated”

Margaret Rayman

Analysing 68 previous studies in the field, they found that a low-dose supplement of fish oil – one and a half standard capsules – could result in pain reduction for patients with osteoarthritis and help improve their cardiovascular health.

Essential fatty acids in fish oil reduce inflammation in joints, helping to alleviate pain, noted the researchers from the University of Surrey in the journal Rheumatology.

They also found that a reduction of weight for overweight and obese patients and the introduction of exercise tailored to mobility could also help ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

A calorie restricted diet, combined with strengthening, flexibility and aerobic exercises, was identified as an effective approach in reducing pain in overweight patients, they said.

However, they noted that there was no evidence that a calorie restricted diet does anything beneficial for lean patients with the condition.

In addition, they suggested that adopting a healthier lifestyle would also help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, highlighting that high blood cholesterol was associated with osteoarthritis.

An increase in foods rich in vitamin K such as kale, spinach and parsley was also found to deliver benefits to patients with osteoarthritis.

Senior study author Professor Margaret Rayman, an expert in nutritional medicine at Surrey, said: “The importance of a good diet and regular exercise should never be underestimated.

“Not only does it keep us fit and healthy, but as we have learned from this study, it can also lessen painful symptoms of osteoarthritis,” she said.

She added: “We are what we eat and it is important that we have the right amount of nutrients from our food to ensure that our body systems work as they should.”

”Patients can’t expect miracles with dietary interventions if they are overweight and drink or smoke heavily”

Ali Mobasheri

Fellow author Professor Ali Mobasheri said: “A combination of good diet and regular exercise are necessary to keep joints healthy; you can’t have healthy joints with just one, you need both.

“Lifestyle should also be considered when attempting to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis,” he said. “Patients can’t expect miracles with dietary interventions if they are overweight and drink or smoke heavily.

“Evidence shows that smoking and heavy drinking negatively affects body energy metabolism and inflammatory markers in the liver which may promote inflammation and disease in the body,” he said.

Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form of arthritis in the world with 18% of women and 9.6% of men aged 60 years and over being diagnosed with this painful condition.

Currently there is no effective treatment for the condition, with only painkillers available to treat symptoms and no known cure, noted the researchers behind the review.

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