Joint and musculoskeletal dysfunction is the most common cause of disability in the UK, but could upping your intake of omega-3 fatty acids help reduce joint pain?
One in three UK adults over the age of 45 will develop osteoarthritis, with hundreds of thousands more affected by rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis or osteoporosis.
More than half of those living with arthritis say they experience pain every day, while almost 75% of osteoarthritis sufferers are in constant pain. Could omega-3 fatty acids help?
The research looks promising; omega-3 supplements have been found to reduce joint pain and improve function when used in conjunction with – or as an alternative to – conventional anti-inflammatory painkillers. Evidence suggests they could even help to prevent or delay the onset of arthritis.
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In osteoarthritis, the cartilage which protects the ends of the bones is gradually worn away, causing pain and inflammation. Over time, both the pain and inflammation can become severe.
Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to help by reducing the amount of pro-inflammatory substances and cartilage-damaging enzymes in the body.
High-dose omega-3 supplements have also been found to help with the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. This is a chronic inflammatory condition causing pain, stiffness and restriction of the spine.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which antibodies attack the fluid capsules surrounding joints, causing pain and inflammation.
Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can help normalise the way the immune system functions, and may help prevent and treat a variety of autoimmune disorders.
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In addition, omega-3 supplements may help keep joints supple. Higher levels of omega-3 in the synovial fluid – the thick, colourless fluid that lubricates our joints – are associated with reductions in joint pain.
Omega-3s even appear to strengthen the bones themselves. Scientists believe that EPA – one of the most common forms of omega-3 – works with vitamin D to increase calcium absorption and bone density, protecting against osteoporosis.
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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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