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Last Updated: 02/15/2014 8:25 PST

This 1 Type of Fat Could Stop Joint Pain

Ouch! Are your joints creaking a bit too much? Than chances are you may have knee osteoarthritis–a condition that affects nearly 50 percent of American by age 85, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now researchers say there may be a way to lessen its severity, according to new research published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

“Our results suggest that dietary factors play a more significant role than mechanical factors in the link between obesity and osteoarthritis,” says senior author Farshid Guilak, Ph.D., a Laszlo Ormandy Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Duke University. “This made us think that maybe it’s not how much weight you gain, but what you eat.”

As he found out, what really made a difference was omega 3 fatty acids.

The Research

Using mice who had osteoarthritis of the knee, Guilak wanted to find out if certain diets improved or worsened their osteoarthritis symptoms–and so he conducted a study.

Splitting the mice into three groups, they were each fed a different diet: A high saturated fat diet, a diet high in omega 6 fatty acids, or a diet high in omega 6 fatty acids and a small amount of omega 3 fatty acids.

Then he waited to see how these diets affected their joints–to surprising results.

While research in the past believed that body weight influenced the risk of osteoarthritis, his findings found that an individual’s diet, not body weight, mainly affected the severity of their arthritis. Furthermore, he found that mice whose diet was supplemented with small amounts of omega 3 fatty acids had significantly less osteoarthritic pain compared to those who ate diets rich in omega 6 and saturated fats.

These findings could apply to humans as well.

“While omega 3 fatty acids aren’t reversing the injury, they appear to slow the progression of arthritis in this group of mice,” says Guilak. “In fact, omega 3 fatty acids eliminated the detrimental effects of obesity in obese mice. A great next step would be to do a clinical study to look at effect of omega 3 fatty acids post-injury.”

Chia-Lung Wu, a biomedical engineering graduate student from the Duke Orthopaedic Research Laboratories who helped lead the research, also agrees with Guilak, saying that omega-3 fatty acids have the potential to heal even in the presence of morbid obesity.

“We found that independent of body weight, dietary fatty acids regulate ear wound healing and severity of osteoarthritis following joint injury in obese mice,” says Wu.

What You Should Do

While it won’t cure osteoarthritis, research shows that adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet could help lessen its severity–even if you’re obese. To get your fill of omega 3s, increase your intake of fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon, which are naturally abundant in these special fats. Taking a fish oil supplement can also help, but make sure to do so under a doctor’s supervision.



 


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