Am J Clin Nutr 2000 (Jan); 71 (1 Suppl): 349S–351S
Division of Rheumatology,
Albany Medical College,
New York 12208, USA
Ingestion of dietary supplements of n-3 fatty acids has been consistently shown to reduce both the number of tender joints on physical examination and the amount of morning stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. In these cases, supplements were consumed daily in addition to background medications and the clinical benefits of the n-3 fatty acids were not apparent until they were consumed for > or =12 wk. It appears that a minimum daily dose of 3 g eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acids is necessary to derive the expected benefits. These doses of n-3 fatty acids are associated with significant reductions in the release of leukotriene B(4) from stimulated neutrophils and of interleukin 1 from monocytes. Both of these mediators of inflammation are thought to contribute to the inflammatory events that occur in the rheumatoid arthritis disease process.
Several investigators have reported that rheumatoid arthritis patients consuming n-3 dietary supplements were able to lower or discontinue their background doses of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. Because the methods used to determine whether patients taking n-3 supplements can discontinue taking these agents are variable, confirmatory and definitive studies are needed to settle this issue. N-3 Fatty acids have virtually no reported serious toxicity in the dose range used in rheumatoid arthritis and are generally very well tolerated.