Date Published: 28 July 2005

Research into effects of taking fish oil to alleviate osteoarthritis

Health News from Bristol, England (UK).
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A team of researchers at Bristol University will be investigating the effects of taking fish oil to help alleviate the painful joint condition of osteoarthritis.

What is osteoarthritis ?

Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage, the smooth substance between bones, wears away, and the bone underneath thickens and grows outwards. (Read about other skeletal conditions.)

It affects more than two million people in the UK and is a major cause of pain and disability in older people.

New Research Program:

Dr John Tarlton, from the University of Bristol's school of clinical veterinary science, has been awarded funding of more than £80,000 from the Arthritis Research Campaign ( to find out whether the benefits of taking fish oil, such as cod liver oil, outweigh possible negative side effects.

Dr Tarlton said:

" We expect as a result of our studies that the Arthritis Research Campaign will be in a position to judge whether to recommend the use of cod liver oil and other fish oils in the prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis.
_ We will provide science-based evidence to inform both medics and sufferers of the benefits of this potential dietary remedy.

The Bristol team's work follow that of Professor Bruce Caterson from Cardiff University (see also books about Cardiff) who undertook groundbreaking work, also funded by the ARC, into the effects of cod liver oil on isolated cartilage and cells in culture.

Dr. Tarlton said:

" Professor Caterson's results suggested that omega-3 may be beneficial in preventing cartilage destruction but it is essential that before it can be recommended to patients, the effects of omega-3 found in fish oils are measured in the whole joint, not just in cartilage tissues."

Although omega-3 - the fatty acid found in fish oil - may prevent cartilage destruction, it also increases bone thickening, which may itself lead to osteoarthritis. The team want to make sure that the effects of bone thickening do not outweigh the benefits of omega-3 in preventing cartilage destruction.

Dr. Tarlton and Anthony Hollander, ARC Professor of Rheumatology and Tissue Engineering at the department of academic rheumatology at Southmead Hospital, and their team will conduct lab tests to measure the bone and cartilage changes in whole joints affected by OA, and the potential benefits of dietary omega-3 supplementation. Dr. Lynda Knott, a specialist researcher in bone and matrix biology, will perform the studies on model systems. The study will last for two years.

Source: Bristol University, England (UK)

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