There is nothing fishy going on here: Eating fish could help to reduce disease activity of rheumatoid arthritis. In a recent study, a group of researchers conducted an observational study correlating lower levels of arthritis pain with higher levels of fish consumption.
Published in Arthritis Care & Research, the study split participants into groups by the amount of fish consumed. (One group consumed less than a serving per month, another consumed one serving per month, etcetera, with the most common rate of consumption being more than two times per week.) After accounting for variables like age, medical history, and use of mineral supplements, results revealed that increased fish consumption was related to a significant decline in the severity of arthritis symptoms.
In the past, rheumatoid arthritis patients have typically been recommended fish oil supplements as a method for reducing symptoms. The authors of the study wrote, “This is a novel analysis of the relationship between consuming fish as a whole food, rather than consuming fish oil supplements, and rheumatoid disease activity.” This is exciting news for arthritis patients — it could mean that whole, real foods would work as a form of medicine rather than prescription medication, over-the-counter supplements, and other costly treatments.
Dr. Sara K. Tedeschi, lead author of the study, warns against taking these results too seriously. Not only was this solely an observational study, but the groups being compared were relatively small. This limits the results and makes it difficult to eliminate interfering variables. For example, the group consuming the most fish was also of a lower BMI and a higher socioeconomic status — two variables associated with less severe disease activity. However, the group members were also the biggest smokers and had arthritis for a longer period of time — variables associated with more severe disease activity. So the results are by no means conclusive.
The types of fish consumed are also important to note — the participants of the study weren’t gorging themselves on deep fried cod and clam chowder. Instead they added more healthful versions, such as baked, steamed, broiled, or raw fish, into their diets.
Arthritis pain isn’t the only reason to start eating more fish. A plethora of health benefits have been associated with the healthy protein — especially fish containing omega-3’s, such as salmon. (Yes, you can eat the skin!)
To get started on incorporating some healthy fish in your life, check out these 15 Easy Fish Recipes for Summer.