Cod liver oil can help arthritis painStudy finds it can cut reliance on painkillers

25 March 2008

A walking stick held in someone's hands

A scientific study has found  evidence that cod liver oil can help rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.

The study, published in the journal Rheumatology, showed that people taking a cod liver oil supplement could cut their reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs by more than 30%.

Rheumatoid arthritis - which affects around 350,000 people in the UK - is an auto-immune disease which causes pain, swelling and inflammation in the joints and can leave people feeling generally unwell and tired.

Ibuprofen

Many patients with rheumatoid arthritis take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include ibuprofen.

But in high doses these have been linked to side-effects including increased risk of a heart attack or stroke, and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Doses given for conditions such as arthritis are much higher than for people who use the drugs as occasional painkillers.

The new study, by experts at the Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee, and the University of Dundee, analysed 97 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who took NSAIDs.

Patients in the trial were given either cod liver oil or placebo supplements and after 12 weeks asked to gradually reduce their use of NSAIDs.

Hope

Almost 60 patients completed the nine-month trial which found 39% taking cod liver oil reduced their daily dose of NSAIDs compared with 10% taking a placebo.

The study authors said the findings were important at a time ‘when there are increasing concerns about adverse events associated with NSAID use’.

Professor Jill Belch, from the Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee, said: ‘This study offers hope to many rheumatoid arthritis patients for whom cod liver oil supplements can offer a natural pain management treatment without the harmful side effects associated with the use of anti-inflammatory drugs.

‘It reinforces previous research that has shown cod liver oil, and its high content of omega-3 essential fatty acids, to have significant anti-inflammatory properties in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.’