How do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Affect Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Omega-3 fish oil is a popular dietary supplement with various health benefits, including its potential to improve brain function and mental health. In this blog, we will explore what omega-3 fish oil is, how it affects the brain and its potential benefits for mental health.

What is Omega-3 Fish Oil?

Omega-3 fish oil is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that is derived from the tissues of fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. It contains two main types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids are essential for human health and cannot be produced by the body, so they must be obtained through the diet.

How Does Omega-3 Fish Oil Affect the Brain?

Omega-3 fish oil has been shown to have various effects on the brain, including:

Boosting Brain Function

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential components of the brain cell membrane, which is responsible for the transmission of signals between neurons. Studies have shown that omega-3 supplementation can improve cognitive function, memory, and reaction time.

Reducing Inflammation

Chronic inflammation in the brain has been linked to various neurological conditions, including depression, anxiety, and Alzheimer's disease. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help reduce the risk of these conditions.

Increasing Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to adapt and change over time in response to new experiences. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to increase neuroplasticity, which may help improve learning and memory.

Regulating Mood

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to regulate mood by increasing the production of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that play a key role in mood regulation.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the joints, causing inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Although the exact cause of RA is unknown, it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. RA affects around 1.5 million people in the United States and is more common in women than men. Omega-3 fatty acids have been studied extensively in relation to their potential benefits in managing RA symptoms. In this blog post, we will explore how Omega-3 fatty acids affect rheumatoid arthritis.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is essential for the body's optimal functioning. There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in plant sources such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts, while EPA and DHA are found in fish and fish oil supplements.


Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a key component of RA, and reducing inflammation can help alleviate RA symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness. Omega-3 fatty acids work by inhibiting the production of certain pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), which are involved in the inflammatory response.

A 2018 meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation significantly reduced joint pain intensity and morning stiffness in patients with RA. The study also found that omega-3 fatty acids reduced the need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in RA patients. NSAIDs are commonly used to manage RA symptoms, but they can cause side effects such as stomach ulcers, so reducing the need for NSAIDs can benefit RA patients.

In addition to reducing inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids may also have a protective effect on joint health. A study published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases found that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood were associated with a lower risk of developing RA. The study followed over 30,000 women for more than a decade and found that those who consumed the most omega-3 fatty acids had a 52% lower risk of developing RA compared to those who consumed the least.

Omega-3 fatty acids may also have a positive effect on bone health. RA is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weak and brittle. A 2016 meta-analysis of 11 RCTs found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improved bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. The study also found that omega-3 fatty acids reduced the risk of hip fractures in older adults.

Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained through dietary sources such as fatty fish (e.g., salmon, tuna, and sardines), fish oil supplements, and certain plant sources (e.g., flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts). The American Heart Association recommends consuming at least two servings of fatty fish per week to obtain sufficient omega-3 fatty acids. However, some people may find it difficult to consume enough omega-3 fatty acids through their diet alone, in which case supplements may be beneficial.

Are There Any Risks or Side Effects of Omega-3 Fish Oil?

While omega-3 fish oil is generally safe for most people, there are some potential risks and side effects.

Fishy Aftertaste

One of the most common side effects of omega-3 fish oil supplements is a fishy aftertaste or burps. This can be unpleasant, but it is usually not harmful.

Digestive Issues

Some people may experience digestive issues, such as nausea, diarrhea, or stomach cramps when taking omega-3 supplements.

Blood Thinning

Omega-3 fish oil may have a blood-thinning effect, which can be beneficial for some people but can also increase the risk of bleeding in people who are taking blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin. If you are taking blood-thinning medication, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking omega-3 supplements.

Vitamin A Toxicity

Some types of fish, such as shark and swordfish, contain high levels of vitamin A, which can be toxic in large doses. If you are taking omega-3 fish oil supplements, it is important to choose a reputable brand that uses fish that are low in mercury and other contaminants.

Allergic Reactions

Some people may be allergic to fish or seafood and may experience allergic reactions when taking omega-3 fish oil supplements.

Overall, omega-3 fish oil is considered safe for most people when taken in recommended doses. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medication. It is also important to choose a reputable brand of omega-3 fish oil supplements to ensure quality and purity.