Unless you’ve been living under a kelp bed, you know that omega-3 fatty acids are good for you, especially if you have arthritis. They help reduce inflammation throughout the body, and are found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, vegetarian sources such as walnuts and flaxseeds, and in supplements.
One recent study published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage found that a diet rich in omega-3s reduced the incidence of osteoarthritis in guinea pigs. Other studies have shown people with rheumatoid arthritis who took omega-3s had a reduction in joint pain – but not in joint damage – and some study participants were able to reduce their dosages of corticosteroids.
Here are even more ways that omega-3s can boost your health, according to some of the latest research.
Heart health. People with rheumatoid arthritis are at increased risk of heart disease, and omega-3s are perhaps best known for their role in promoting heart health.
Most studies confirming omega-3s heart benefits, however, have looked at men. So researchers in Denmark turned their attention to women ages 15 to 49, and found over an eight-year period, those who rarely or never ate fish had 90 percent more cardiovascular problems than those who ate fish high in omega-3s weekly. Their findings were published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Cognitive health. Aging brings a greater risk for not only osteoarthritis, but also cognitive impairment. The role of omega-3s for cognitive health is not as clear-cut as it is in heart health, but still bears consideration. Some studies have found that – in rats – a diet rich in omega-3s slows the development of changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease. And a recent British study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that taking fish oil supplements reduced mental fatigue and increased reaction times in participants ages 18 to 35 years old.
Diabetes. Although arthritis and diabetes are not directly related, they often coexist. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, found that more than half of people with diabetes also have arthritis. Again, omega-3s may be able to help, according to two new reports.
One study looked at more than 3,000 older U.S. adults; it found that those with the highest blood levels of the omega-3s known as EPA and DHA (found in fish) were about one-third less likely to develop diabetes over a 10-year period than those adults with the lowest levels. Another report showed that among 43,000 Singapore adults, those who ate diets rich in ALA – the omega-3 fatty acid found in plant foods – were at reduced risk of developing diabetes.