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People with rheumatoid arthritis may be able to mitigate some of the symptoms of the disease simply by eating more fish.
This is according to a new US study led by Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, which has indicated that fish consumption can help to tackle the inflammation that causes many of the most painful symptoms of the disease.
The positive impact of eating more fish
To carry out this research, scientists asked 176 people with rheumatoid arthritis to fill out a food frequency questionnaire assessing their usual diet over the past year, in order to determine how much fish the patients were eating.
Results published in the medical journal Arthritis Care & Research indicated that individuals who consumed fish two or more times per week experienced lower disease activity levels - as measured by their number of swollen and tender joints, among other assessments - than those who never ate fish, or did so less than once a month.
Moreover, the association was shown to be graded, meaning that increasing servings of fish produced incrementally lower levels of disease activity.
A simple but beneficial lifestyle change
Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating and chronic condition characterised by painful, swollen joints, stiffness and fatigue, all of which can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life. This study indicates that simple changes, such as increasing the amount of fish in their diets, could have a big impact on making the condition more manageable.
Lead author Dr Sara Tedeschi, of the division of rheumatology, immunology and allergy at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said: "If our finding holds up in other studies, it suggests that fish consumption may lower inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis disease activity.
"Fish consumption has been noted to have many beneficial health effects, and our findings may give patients with rheumatoid arthritis a strong reason to increase fish consumption."
Arthritis Research UK's view
Dr Benjamin Ellis, rheumatologist and Arthritis Research UK spokesperson, comments: "Rheumatoid arthritis affects nearly one in every hundred people in the UK. The daily pain and fatigue caused by the condition can make everyday tasks such as getting dressed or making a cup of tea painful and difficult.
"There are many things beyond medication that people with rheumatoid arthritis can do to improve their health, such as not smoking and keeping physically active. There is also some scientific evidence that dietary changes, such as eating fish in this study, can help to manage symptoms.
"It's important to stress that eating fish does not replace medical treatments. However, this study provides evidence that for some, combining it with their treatment plan could improve their pain and stiffness."
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