Omega-3 Fish Oil EPA and DHA Reduce Inflammation and Loss of Cartilage Protein in Tissue Studies

Omega-3s Reduce Inflammation and Loss of Cartilage Protein in Tissue Studies

Runaway inflammation characterizes many diseases, including heart disease, stroke and other types of brain injury, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic syndrome and others. As a result, one of the first-line therapies for several of these conditions is inflammation control. Sometimes, the medications that reduce inflammation and pain have undesirable side effects, especially when used for years. Having less damaging agents would help patient treatment and health. For that reason, the omega-3 fatty acids found mainly in fish and shellfish (omega-3s) are being actively investigated for their anti-inflammatory benefits in several diseases.

A relative new-comer to the list of maladies is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that affects the cartilage where bones glide across each other, as in the knees, hips and spine. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage deteriorates, loses its ability to cushion the joints and becomes inflamed. Not surprisingly, the disease is very painful. The suggestion that omega-3s might reduce disease symptoms and cartilage degeneration is based on the known anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s, their effectiveness in rheumatoid arthritis (which does not affect the cartilage), and encouraging results from studies in animals with the condition and findings from cultured cells.

Here we describe a study in the U.K. that examined the effect of omega-3s in cultured cartilage tissue under conditions of tissue breakdown. When inflammatory agents were added to the tissue, a protein characteristic of cartilage breakdown was released from the tissue. When low levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), one of the two main omega-3s in seafood, were added to the tissue, the release of the protein fell. High concentrations of EPA had little effect on the amount of protein released.

Next the researchers added DHA and repeated the experiments. Again, low levels of DHA reduced the release of the marker protein. The investigators also showed that inflammatory substances also diminished in the presence of the omega-3s, confirming their original reasoning that these fatty acids could reduce cartilage degeneration and likely did so by reducing inflammation.

There might be other ways that omega-3s reduce the inflammation and deterioration associated with osteoarthritis, but these studies demonstrate the potential of omega-3s to reduce some of the damage and perhaps ease the pain that goes with osteoarthritis. There is some evidence from animals that adding omega-3s to the diet improves the animal’s activity. Determining whether these fatty acids are effective in animals and humans with the disease will be an importa

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