Rheumatoid Arthritis Functional MedicineAccording to research recently published in Rheumatology, consuming fish oil may decrease the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. EPA and DHA may suppress antibodies that regulate the immune system.

We all know about essential fatty acids (EFAs) and their benefits in autoimmune disease and their anti-inflammatory benefits. However, in this study researchers wanted to determine if patients who had a higher omega-3 fatty acid intake, would have a lower risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The research team analyzed data on omega-3 consumption for 30 patients who had positive cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP) antibodies for RA and 47 control patients with negative antibodies. A CCP antibody test is commonly ordered along with rheumatoid factor (RF) to help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. Patients that test positive for the CCP antibody are more likely to have early RA or develop RA in the future. The CCP antibody is more specific for RA and tends to be associated with a more rapidly progressive and severe form of the disease.

According the study, only 6.7% of the patients who had positive CCP antibodies reported taking an omega-3 supplement compared to 34.4% in the control group. In addition, RBC fatty acid levels showed significantly lower omega-3 fatty acids in those with positive CCP antibodies compared to the control patients.

This study suggests that DHA and EPA may be effective in suppressing CCP antibodies which regulates the intensity and duration of the immune response.

This is the first study to demonstrate an association between omega-3 fatty acids and the autoantibodies that lead to RA among patients who are at risk but not yet developed the disease. Autoantibodies appear in the blood years before patients show symptoms to these disorders. It is important to screen antibodies just as one assesses metabolic markers in patients who may be at risk as it provides a mean to take preventative action and not a wait and see approach.

These results indicate a protective property of omega-3 fatty acids against RA by preventing its development during the period before symptoms emerge.

The researchers recommend taking 1-3 grams of fish oil daily for those that may be at risk for RA or other inflammatory diseases.

Autoimmunity can occur a few different ways. It is also important to look at any environmental triggers such as food sensitivities, nutrient status, toxins, and gut health. Each person’s biochemical individuality exerts a major influence on his or her health. The level of nutrient intake, lifestyle choices and environmental exposures filtered through genetic predisposition are major factors in the expression of disease, and a successful treatment approach must investigate these factors.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN

Source: Lower omega-3 fatty acids are associated with the presence of anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide autoantibodies in a population at risk for future rheumatoid arthritis: a nested case-control study, R.W. Gan et al., Rheumatology, printed online 13 September 2015

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