Researchers found that eating fish at least twice weekly led to a reduction in disease activity among people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), compared with eating fish less than once per month.
What is more, reduced disease activity was achieved with every additional portion of fish consumed each week.
Study leader Dr. Sara Tedeschi, of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, MA, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.
RA is a chronic, progressive condition in which the immune system mistakingly attacks the joints, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain. RA can affect any joint, but it most commonly occurs in the joints of the wrists and hands.
Over time, inflammation of the joints may lead to a breakdown of cartilage, which is the connective tissue that protects the ends of bones. This can lead to joint deformities and mobility problems.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, around 1.5 million people in the United States are living with RA.
There is no cure for RA, but symptoms may be managed through lifestyle changes, medication, and, in some cases, surgery. Some of these therapies can also help to slow disease progression.
Based on the new study findings, Dr. Tedeschi and colleagues suggest that a simple dietary change may help to ease symptoms for patients with RA: increasing fish intake.
High fish intake poses benefits
The researchers came to their conclusion by analyzing data from 176 individuals with RA, all of whom were part of the Evaluation of Subclinical Cardiovascular Disease and Predictors of Events in RA cohort study.
At study baseline, a food frequency questionnaire was used to gather information on participants’ fish intake over the past year. Subjects were divided into four groups based on the frequency of their fish consumption: never to once per month; once each month to less than once per week; once each week; and more than twice per week.
Data were not available on the types of fish that participants consumed.
The DAS28-CRP scoring system, which measures welling, tenderness, pain, and blood markers of inflammation among patients with RA, was used to assess disease activity among participants.
The median DAS28-CRP score for participants at study baseline was 3.5, the team reports.
Compared with participants who never ate fish or ate it less than once every month, the researchers found that subjects who consumed fish more than twice each week showed significantly lower disease activity, as represented by a DAS28-CRP score that was 0.49 points lower.
Furthermore, the team found that each additional portion of fish consumed every week was associated with a 0.18-point drop in DAS28-CRP scores.
Based on their findings, the team suggests that people with RA might benefit from including more fish in their diets.
“If our finding holds up in other studies, it suggests that fish consumption may lower inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis disease activity,” says Dr. Tedeschi.