A UF Health researcher and his colleagues have discovered an association between increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish-oil supplements and a decreased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in people at risk for the disease. The study is the first of its kind to find an association between omega-3 and the autoantibodies that lead to rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, among patients who are at risk but have yet to develop the disease.
People with a family history of RA who consumed more omega-3 were less likely to have certain autoantibodies that precede the disease’s development, researchers found. Autoantibodies are immune proteins that mistakenly target the body’s tissues and organs. The findings were published recently in the journal Rheumatology by researchers including Michael J. Clare-Salzler, M.D., a professor and chairman of the department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine in the UF College of Medicine.
While it was a small number of study subjects, the results suggest that omega-3 may help protect against RA by impeding its development during the period before symptoms emerge, according to the researchers. Omega-3 is found in cold-water fish such as salmon or mackerel as well as in dietary supplements derived from fish or algae. “If you’re consuming more omega-3 during an earlier phase of disease, you may block its progression to a phase where active inflammation manifests,” Clare-Salzler said.