The popularity of fish oil has tripled. Numerous studies have found that fish oil can help cholesterol levels, postpartum depression, neurologic diseases and even inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

If you don’t take it yourself, you probably know someone who is taking it. Have you contemplated buying a bottle and joining in on the secret to disease prevention?

Fish Oil 101

DHA, EPA and ALA are examples of omega-3 fatty acids. DHA and EPA aremost commonly found in coldwater fish. ALA is commonly found in many plant-based foods such as walnuts and flaxseed.

Not All Omegas Are Created Equal

The omega-6 rich foods, found in many liquid vegetable oils, have actually been found to work quite differently in the body. For example, omega-3 rich foods calm down inflammation, but omega-6 foods stimulate inflammatory markers. Therefore, there are many proposed adverse health effects associated with excessive omega-6 consumption. Interestingly, the omega-3 and omega-6 particles compete with each other to incorporate themselves into our red blood cells. Whichever omega wins gets to exert its specific effects.

Research shows that Western diets tip the scalefavoring omega-6 fatty acids to the omega-3’s. There is speculation that the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is contributing to many common ailments in the United States, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and even cancer.

Omegas and Rheumatoid Arthritis

In a 2003, a study published in Rheumatology International,68 individuals with rheumatoid arthritis were divided into two groups. For eight months one group was on a typical Western diet, and the other was on an anti-inflammatory diet (AID). Fish oil supplementation was given daily to each patient in both groups.

In the end, the group on the AID with the fish oil demonstrated statistically significant improvement in their joint pain(28 percent improvement in the AID group on fish oil compared to only 11 percent improvement in the Western diet group on fish oil).

Should I Run Out to Buy a Bottle Even Though It’s 1 am?

It’s important to recognize that supplements are just that supplements to your diet. Ultimately, a diet filled with healthy sources of omega-3 rich foods, as well as other vitamins and nutrients, with a focus on reduction of omega-6 sources, is the best prescription. If your diet is inadequate, then alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids, like fish oil, may be helpful.

If you’re considering supplements, discuss your decision with your physician first.

Fish Oil
Dr. Mahsa Tehrani

Dr. Mahsa Tehrani, M.D.  is co-founder of Arthritis and Rheumatology Clinical Center of Northern Virginia located in Fairfax. Dr. Tehrani is double board certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.  She can be reached at 703-734-2222.

Arthritis and Rheumatology Clinic of Northern Virginia proudly serves  Vienna, Tyson’s Corner, Fairfax, Great Falls, Mclean, Falls Church, Dunn Loring, Sterling, Herndon, Chantilly, Reston, Ashburn, Leesburg, Burke, Annandale, Arlington, Oakton, Washington D.C., Bethesda, Potomac, Silver Spring, Gaithersburg, Rockville and more.