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Fish oil for rheumatoid arthritis


Clinical bottom line

Fish oil supplementation in adequate doses improves outcomes for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.


PR Fortin et al. Validation of a meta-analysis: the effects of fish oil in rheumatoid arthritis. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 1995 48: 1379-1390.

The main inclusion criteria were that trials had to be randomised and double blind, to have a placebo control with results reported at baseline and follow up, and with a parallel or cross-over design. One quasi-randomised study was included.

This study used a search of MEDLINE from 1991, supplemented with additional searches and contacts to manufacturers. The review also obtained individual patient results and looked at results from an analysis of mean results of published material, and from an individual patient basis.


At three months, fish oil use resulted in a significant reduction in tender joint count by 3 joints, and reduced morning stiffness by 26 minutes.


This interesting methodological paper showed that the analysis of results on an individual basis largely confirmed those based on mean results reported in individual publications. Fish oil is helpful in rheumatoid arthritis. A subsequent randomised trial [1] compared fish oil (40 mg/kg/day) in 50 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and reached similar conclusions.


  1. D Volker et al. Efficacy of fish oil concentrate in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Journal of Rheumatology 2000 27: 2343-2346.