Ordering off the seafood menu may help ease the aches and pains of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a new study in Arthritis Care & Research. People with RA who ate fish at least twice a week reported less joint swelling and tenderness than those who rarely or never did—and the findings suggest that the more fish they ate, the less active their disease.
The study involved 176 people with RA who answered questions about their diet over the past year. Specifically, the authors looked at responses to questions about how often people ate tuna, salmon, sardines and other fish prepared raw, broiled, steamed or baked.
They did not look at how often people ate fried fish, shellfish or fish in mixed dishes (like shrimp stir-fry, for example), because these meals tend to be lower in omega-3 fatty acids—a type of fat with anti-inflammatory properties. Previous studies have shown that taking fish-oil supplements (which are rich in omega-3s) may benefit people with RA, but this is among the first studies to look at the consumption of actual fish.
The researchers also looked at the patients’ disease-activity scores, a measure that takes into account the number of swollen and tender joints they have, as well as a blood marker of inflammation.