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Fish eaters report less arthritis pain

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Eating fish at least twice a week may significantly reduce the pain and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis, a new study says. PHOTO: yepspokane.com

• Regular intake of vegetable protein protects against early menopause

Eating fish at least twice a week may significantly reduce the pain and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis, a new study says. Prior studies have shown a beneficial effect of fish oil supplements on rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, but less is known about the value of eating fish containing omega-3, the researchers said.

“We wanted to investigate whether eating fish as a whole food would have a similar kind of effect as the omega 3 fatty acid supplements,” said the study author, Dr. Sara Tedeschi, an associate physician of rheumatology, immunology and allergy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, United States.

The findings were reported June 21 in Arthritis Care & Research. Generally, the amount of omega 3 fatty acids in fish is lower than the doses that were given in the trials, she said. Even so, as the 176 study participants increased the amount of fish they ate weekly, their disease activity score lowered, the observational study found.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, creating swelling and pain. It can also affect body systems, such as the cardiovascular or respiratory systems.

Participants were enrolled in a study investigating risk factors for heart disease in rheumatoid arthritis patients. The researchers conducted a secondary study from that data, analyzing results of a food frequency questionnaire that assessed patients’ diet over the past year. Consumption of fish was counted if it was cooked — broiled, steamed, or baked — or raw, including sashimi and sushi. Fried fish, shellfish and fish in mixed dishes, such as stir-fries, were not included. Frequency of consumption was categorized as: never or less than once a month; once a month to less than once a week; once a week; and two or more times a week.

Almost 20 percent of participants ate fish less than once a month or never, while close to 18 percent consumed fish more than twice a week. The most frequent fish eaters reported less pain and swelling compared to those who ate fish less than once a month, the study found.

Researchers can’t prove that the fish was responsible for the improvements. And they theorized that those who regularly consumed fish could have a healthier lifestyle overall, contributing to their lower disease activity score.

Also, results of a new study from epidemiologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, United States, suggest that long-term, high intake of vegetable protein from such foods as whole grains, soy and tofu, may protect women from early menopause and could prolong reproductive function.

Consuming enriched pasta, dark bread and cold cereal were especially associated with lower risk, while they observed no similar relation to eating animal sources of protein.

“A better understanding of how dietary vegetable protein intake is associated with ovarian aging may identify ways for women to modify their risk of early onset menopause and associated health conditions,” write first author and then-graduate student Maegan Boutot, with her advisor, professor Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson. Details appear in the current early online edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Early menopause, the cessation of ovarian function before age 45, affects about 10 percent of women and is associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and early cognitive decline, the authors note.


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