Study finds significant potential for omega-3 fatty acids in the prevention and treatment of arthritis
Tuesday, October 25, 2011. Writing in the September, 2011 issue of the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, British researchers report the results of an animal experiment which found that omega-3 fatty acids reduced many of the signs of osteoarthritis. "This study is the first to look at both cartilage and subchondral bone changes with increased dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids," John Tarlton of the University of Bristol's School of Veterinary Sciences and his colleagues announce.
Dr Tarlton's team compared the effect of a standard high omega-6 diet containing corn oil or a diet enhanced with fish oil, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, in a breed of guinea pigs that naturally develop arthritis. An arthritis-resistant breed of guinea pigs was used as controls. The animals received the diets for 20 weeks, after which cartilage, bone and blood factors were examined for signs of the disease.
Among the arthritis-prone guinea pigs given omega-3, the majority of disease indicators were reduced in comparison with animals that received diets that did not contain fish oil. "There was strong evidence that omega-3 influences the biochemistry of the disease, and therefore not only helps prevent disease, but also slows its progression, potentially controlling established osteoarthritis," Dr Tarlton noted. "The only way of being certain that the effects of omega-3 are as applicable to humans as demonstrated in guinea pigs is to apply omega-3 to humans. However, osteoarthritis in guinea pigs is perhaps the most appropriate model for spontaneous, naturally occurring osteoarthritis, and all of the evidence supports the use of omega-3 in human disease."
"Most diets in the developed world are lacking in omega-3, with modern diets having up to 30 times too much omega-6 and too little omega-3," he added. "Taking omega-3 will help redress this imbalance and may positively contribute to a range of other health problems such as heart disease and colitis."
"The possibility that omega-3 fatty acids could prevent osteoarthritis from developing has been a tantalizing one," remarked Professor Alan Silman, who is the medical research director of Arthritis Research UK, which funded the study. "Some limited, previous research in dogs has suggested that we were a long way away from understanding the potential use in humans. However, this current research in guinea pigs is exciting as it brings us closer to understanding how omega-3 might fundamentally interfere with the osteoarthritis process, and that it could potentially be taken as a treatment."
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Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University report online on September 28, 2011 in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that the use of oral corticosteroid drugs is associated with double the risk of having severely deficient levels of vitamin D compared to non-use of the drugs.
Einstein College assistant professor of pediatrics Amy Skversky, MD, MS and her associates analyzed data from 22,650 children, adolescents and adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2006. One hundred eighty-one subjects reported oral steroid use over the thirty days prior to being questioned. Among steroid users, 11 percent had serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of less than 10 nanograms per milliliter, which is considered severely deficient, compared to 5 percent of the remainder of the study population. For oral steroid users under the age of 18, severe vitamin D deficiency was fourteen times as likely to occur compared with nonsteroid users in the same age group.
The finding is concerning due to the increased risk of conditions such as osteomalacia, myopathy and rickets that are associated with vitamin D deficiency. Other research has revealed decreased levels of vitamin D in children with asthma and those with Crohn's disease who are often prescribed steroid drugs. The drugs may lower vitamin D levels by increasing the level of an enzyme that inactivates the vitamin.
"When doctors write that prescription for steroids and they're sending the patients for lab tests, they should also get the vitamin D level measured," Dr Skversky recommended.
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