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Eating more fish may reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms

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Increasing the amount of fish in the diet may help alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study published in the medical journal Arthritis Care & Research.

Researchers found that individuals with rheumatoid arthritis who consumed fish twice a week or more had lower disease activity (such as swollen and tender joints) than those who never ate fish, or did so less than once a month.

In the study of 176 people with rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers used a food frequency questionnaire assessing each participant’s usual diet over the past year.

The results showed a graded association, which means that increasing servings of fish were linked with incrementally lower levels of disease activity.

“If our finding holds up in other studies, it suggests that fish consumption may lower inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis disease activity,” said Dr Sara Tedeschi, lead author of the study. “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.”

Commenting on the findings, Dr Benjamin Ellis, rheumatologist and spokesman for Arthritis Research UK, said: “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.”