My daily briefing email from the ACR (American College of Rheumatology) led with a story on fish oil in RA. More info can be found on the Health Day and UK Telegraph sites. The actual article was published in the journal Nature 461, 1287-1291 (29 October 2009). This site requires a paid registration to read the article, entitled “Resolvin D2 is a potent regulator of leukocytes and controls microbial sepsis.” Sounds fascinating, huh? Well, I could get the full article from the hospital library tomorrow but I think I’ll be OK with the Editor’s Summary on Nature’s site:
Resolvins, locally acting factors derived from omega-3 fatty acids, have been recognized as inflammation-resolving mediators. Experiments in a mouse abdominal sepsis model now show that resolvin D2 (RvD2) inhibits neutrophil trafficking to inflammatory sites and decreases leukocyte interactions with endothelial cells in a nitric oxide-dependent manner. RvD2’s cellular and molecular actions translated to a dramatic increased survival. This work points to RvD2 as a potent anti-inflammatory agent and suggests new therapeutic approaches that do not compromise host defences.
So, what does this mean? Fish oils may have a beneficial effect on inflammatory conditions, like RA. It appears that this happens because a substance in fish oils stops white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. The article specifically talks about fish oil, but the vegetarians among us will be interested in other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, like flax seeds, walnuts and chia seeds. Many of my patients take these supplements and they are fairly well tolerated, aside from the occasional “fish belching” that some experience. Apparently taking the supplements with meals can decrease it, although a certain family member of mine unfortunately hasn’t found a tolerable brand yet! I should emphasize that the conclusions have been that these supplements may help symptoms of RA and may be part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Certainly no one is suggesting this as a treatment or in any way disease-modifying.