The term arthritis is associated with any disorder that affects the joints. It is used to describe inflammation and pain in the joints and the tissues surrounding the joints.
A joint is an area where two different bones meet and its function is the movement of body parts connected to it. Symptoms of arthritis include pain, stiffness, inflammation and swelling of the affected joints.
There are over 100 types of arthritis. The most commonly occurring are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis develops with age and affects the fingers, knees and hips. It is related to wear and tear of the joints cartilage. This type of arthritis is mainly caused due a joint injury or infection.
Whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the hands and feet. It develops due to inflammation in the joints caused by an over active immune system.
Risk factors of developing arthritis are family history, age – the risk increases with age, Gender- Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis whereas men are more likely to develop gout, another type of arthritis, Joint injury, infection and obesity- excess weight can put pressure on joints like the knees, hips and spine.
Arthritis can be treated by resting the joint and alternatively applying ice and heat. Weight loss, exercise and pain medications are also helpful.
Various research studies have suggested the consumption of cod liver oil that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids for the treatment of arthritis.
What is cod liver oil?
Cod liver oil is a nutritional supplement obtained from liver of cod fish (Gadusmorhua). Like most other fish oils, it has high levels of omega 3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Cod liver oil is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin D content.Diets supplemented with cod liver oil have a variety of benefits and therapeutic effects which can be used for the treatment of arthritis.
7 Benefits of Cod Liver Oil in Arthritis
Cod liver oil is rich in omega3s that reduce inflammation and pain in arthritis.
1. Cod Liver oil has anti-inflammatory action
Research studies show that dietary supplementation of omega three fatty acids are contained in sufficient amounts in cod liver oil. These are essential fatty acids that exert an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing levels of cytokines and concentration of interleukins in the plasma.
Increased levels of cytokines and interleukins in the plasma are main causes of inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. Thus dietary supplementation of cod liver oil can be used in the treatment of arthritis.
The anti-inflammatory action of omega 3 fatty acids present in cod liver oil shows a positive effect is reducing joint inflammation seen in Juvenile idiopathic arthritis. This type of arthritis occurs commonly in children and adolescents. It is an auto-immune, no-infective, inflammatory joint disease.
A study published in the journal of Clinical rheumatology aimed to determine effects of omega 3 fatty acids in this type of arthritis.
27 patients were administered with the omega 3 fatty acid supplements at a dose of 2g/day for 12 weeks. Results indicated that omega 3 fatty acid supplements reduced inflammatory response and clinical manifestation in juvenile arthritis patients.
The study concluded that these supplements reduce dependence of patients over nonsteroidal drugs and thus can be used as an alternative therapy in the treatment of juvenile arthritis.
What does this mean?
Omega 3 fatty acids present in cod liver oil exert an anti-inflammatory response against proinflammatory cytokines and interleukins. It helps reducing joint inflammation which is a common symptom seen in arthritis and there is clinical evidence suggesting its beneficial role for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
2. Cod Liver oil boosts anti-oxidant defenses
Lipid peroxidation, oxidative stress and oxidation of free radicals in affected joints are common symptoms of arthritis.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease. Arthritis is seen to develop usually in patients suffering from this medical condition. Ulcerative colitis involves chronic inflammation and sores in the inner lining of the large intestine i.e. colon and rectum. It is associated with inflammatory arthritis and is called as enteropathic arthritis.
Patients suffering from ulcerative colitis or any other inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease are at a high risk of developing arthritis.
Cod liver oil omega 3 fatty acids reduces oxidative stress in people suffering from ulcerative colitis. The results suggested that consumption of a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids protect patients from oxidative stress. This can be beneficial in treating arthritis as ulcerative colitis may further lead to arthritis.
A study conducted by Kukoba et al. on an animal model demonstrated that when the diet included with polyunsaturated fatty acids, present in high amounts in fish oil, significantly reduced lipid peroxidation. In addition, it had a beneficial effect on the activity of antioxidant enzymes in the cardiac tissue.
What does this mean?
Research studies suggest that omega 3 fatty acids present in cod liver oil have the ability to limit lipid peroxidation, reduce oxidative stress and increase activity of anti-oxidant enzymes which can prove to be beneficial in preventing the oxidation of free radicals and oxidative stress in the joints of arthritis patients.
3. Cod Liver oil attenuates symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
Cod liver oil has found to be beneficial in alleviating symptoms of pain, inflammation, swelling and morning stiffness in the joints seen in rheumatoid arthritis.
In an experimental study conducted by Greunwald et al. in 2002 on 43 patients, each patient was provided with a dose of 1g of cod liver oil for three months.
Results of the study showed the efficacy and tolerability of patients to cod liver oil. It was capable of significantly reducing stiffness, pain and swelling in the affected joints of the patients suggesting its use for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Thus clinical studies suggest that dietary supplementation of fish oil alleviates inflammation in chronic inflammatory disease states. In a study conducted by Blok et al. in 1997 it was observed that long term supplementation of fish oil reduces inflammatory action of interleukins by reducing it production.
Various studies suggest that people with rheumatoid arthritis who consume cod liver oil may lower their dose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
What does this mean?
Cod liver oil contains essential omega 3 fatty acids that have the ability to reduce compounds that cause inflammation like proinflammatory cytokines and interleukins. It may thus exert a therapeutic effect on patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. However, cod liver oil may not completely treat the conditions, it only alleviates the symptoms.
4.Cod Liver oil improves bone strength
Studies suggest that cod liver oil rich in omega 3 fatty acids increases levels of calcium in the body, improving bone strength which can be helpful in preventing osteoarthritis because the main cause of osteoarthritis is breakdown of cartilage underlying the bone due to weak bones which is most prevalent in the elderly due to low levels of calcium.
A study conducted on 65 women with osteoarthritis showed that women who took cod liver oil supplements had less bone loss over 3 years than those under the control group. Increase in bone density was experienced by many women taking fish oil supplements.
Animal studies suggest that omega 3 fatty acids have the ability to reduce bone breakage and increase bone strength in animal model.This indicates that cod liver oil can prevent cartilage or bone breakage in osteoarthritis patients.
What does this mean?
Diets supplemented with omega 3 fatty acids like cod liver oil or fish meals improve bone health in patients suffering from osteoarthritis and enhance the bone turnover in patients as they suffer from severe bone loss.
5. Cod liver oil protects from side effects of anti-arthritis drugs
Research studies suggest the consumption of cod liver oil as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Clinical studies have found that certain drugs used for the treatment of arthritis have side effects depending on the doses. Side effects are mainly caused in the gastrointestinal or cardiovascular systems.
Essential omega 3 fatty acids present within cod liver oil have an anti-inflammatory action that prevents rheumatoid arthritis disease activity or reduce side effects associated with anti-arthritis drugs. This beneficial effect was found on consumption of 10g of cod liver oil containing 2g of essential fatty acids.
Maxepa is a fish oil formulation that contains sufficient amounts of essential fatty acids and can be used as an alternative to non-steroidal drugs that cause side effects in arthritis patients.
A clinical study was conducted to determine the efficacy of Maxepa and it was found that it significantly reduced prostaglandin production and leukotrienes that exert an inflammatory action.
The study also showed reduction in the dependency of patients on non-steroidal anti-arthritis drugs. This shows its anti-inflammatory potential in substituting other drugs for the efficient treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other types of arthritis.
What does this mean?
Cod liver oil contains essential omega 3 fatty acids that play an important role in preventing side effects caused by non-steroidal anti-arthritis drugs. It has also been formulated as capsules so that it can serve as an effective alternative to these drugs.
6. Cod Liver oil benefits in metabolic health and protects the heart
Cod liver oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which is linked with the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. . It has been observed that patients with arthritis are at a a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and high levels of blood pressure.
A study conducted by Saremi et al. in 2009 showed that omega 3 fatty acids present within cod liver oil shows significant reduction in coronary mortality and sudden death in people suffering from cardiovascular disease.
It has been observed that people who consume a Mediterranean-style diet which includes fatty fish have a healthier heart. This is because it contains high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids.
Studies also show that fish oil supplements reduce triglyceride levels. It is well known that to prevent heart diseases it is important to eat a diet low in saturated fatty acids and a diet high in poly saturated fatty acids like omega 3 fatty acids.
Clinical evidence suggests that Omega 3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of heart diseases, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Cod liver oil has also been found to prevent and treat atherosclerosis.
What does this mean?
Cod liver oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids i.e. omega 3 fatty acids which help reducing levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol and high blood pressure. It reduces risk of coronary heart diseases and sudden death by heart strokes.
7. Cod liver oil has immunomodulatory effect that benefits in lupus
Fish oil supplements have found to reduce disease activity in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. It is an autoimmune condition wherein the body’s immune system attacks the healthy tissues in many parts of the body. It is also called as lupus.
A clinical trial conducted by Arrienset al.in 2015 demonstrated that fish oil supplements that are high in powerful anti-oxidants, omega 3 fatty acids reduce oxidative stress. It is found to beneficial in fatigue and improving the quality of life and disease activity in patients with Lupus.
Another study published in the Journal of Marine Drugs demonstrated that omega 3 fatty acids significantly reduced adiponectin levels and leptin levels seen high in lupus patients.
High levels of adinopectin and leptin is a major cause of development of cardiovascular diseases in patients.
Cardiovascular diseases are a leading cause of death in patients with lupus. Thus, consuming cod liver oil supplements may prove to be beneficial in reducing symptoms of cardiovascular diseases.
Studies suggest that omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids present in cod liver oil exert immunomodulatory properties.
Since lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease characterized by increased levels of interleukins and proinflammatory leukotrienes, omega 3 fatty acid supplementation from fish oil may prove to be beneficial in patients with lupus.
Clinical trials that were conducted report the beneficial effects of fish oil in chronic inflammatory diseases including decreased disease activity and lowered dependence over anti-inflammatory drugs.
What does this mean?
Omega 3fatty acids present in cod liver oil possess immunomodulatory properties that have a beneficial effect in normalizing the activity of the immune in autoimmune diseases like lupus erythematosus. It causes reduction in interleukines and proinflammatory cytokines reducing the chronic inflammation.
Dosage of Cod Liver Oil For Arthritis
The oil can be consumed from fresh cod liver or as supplements which can be purchased from the market.
Clinical studies suggest that doses up to 4g daily do not when prescribed with anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs do not lead to increased bleeding.
Health authorities suggest intake of two oily fish meals per week for the general population which accounts for 500mg per day of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acids which are essential omega 3 fatty acids.
In patients with coronary heart disease recommended intake of supplements like cod liver oil rich in essential fatty acids is 1g daily and for hyperglycemic patients it is 4g daily.
However supplemental intake is not sufficient. One must opt for natural sources like incorporating fish in the daily diet along with increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and moderate intake of salt.
Omega 3 fatty acids do not cause any adverse effects; neither do they interact with prescriptive drugs like lipid lowering, anti-hypertensive or hyperglycaemic medications.
However it slows down blood clotting and therefore people under medication for blood thinners and platelet aggregation must avoid its use or take advise from a doctor before consuming cod liver oil supplements as there are chances that it may cause bleeding.
However, Cod liver oil or fish oil can cause bloating, belching and diarrhea. People with diabetes or schizophrenia must be careful before consuming these supplements.
People with type 2 diabetes may experience increase in blood sugar levels while taking these supplements. It is advisable to consume these supplements under doctor’s supervision.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pregnant or nursing women must not consume more than a 6 ounce meal of fish per week whereas for young children it is 2 ounces of a meal of fish per week.
Pregnant women and children must avoid eating fish that contains high levels of mercury like mackerel and tuna and limit their consumption of fish varieties to 12 ounces per week.
One should buy cod liver oil and its products from a reputable market that tests for mercury levels and pesticide residues in its products.
Arthritis leads to unbearable musculoskeletal pain, inflammation in the joints, swelling and is a major cause of disability. There is enough scientific evidence that consumption of cod liver oil can have beneficial effects in the treatment of arthritis.
Consuming cod liver oil in appropriate dosages has the ability to cut down the dependency of patients on painkillers and non-steroidal drugs preventing them from the adverse side effects of these drugs.
Cod liver oil has no known adverse effects yet if consumed in appropriate dosages and under doctors supervision. It is safe as well as an effective remedy for treatment of arthritis.