Does Omega-3 Help Joint Pain?

omega 3 fish oil capsules joint pain

When it comes to health and supplements, only a few of them have been as researched and praised as Omega-3 fatty acids. Often associated with fatty fish like salmon and sardines, omega-3s have quite a few well-studied benefits that extend beyond cardiovascular health. One of those includes relieving joint pain. Let’s have a look.

TL;DR Article Summary

Yes, omega-3s do help joint pain. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish and some plant foods like flaxseeds. In a nutshell, the way they relieve joint pain is by reducing inflammation. While safe for most people in moderate amounts, omega-3 supplements can cause digestive problems and blood thinning, more so in high doses (5g or more per day). For optimal joint health, Omega-3s alone won’t cut it; combine it with other supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, and curcumin for concrete results.

A Little About Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s are a type of fat your body can’t make on its own. As a result you need to get it either from food or supplements (or both). They play a vital role in brain function as well as growth and development. In the context of today’s article, omega-3s are known for their potent anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body (more on this soon). [1] Your best source of Omega-3s will be fatty fish, but vegans can also get some from from nuts and seeds like walnuts.

Joint Pain & Inflammation 101

Joint pain is very common in today’s world with millions of people suffering from various degrees of the condition. It can result from an injury, a chronic condition like arthritis, or more commonly normal wear and tear as we age.

Joint pain can range from small nuisance to a debilitating condition that hinders your movement and overall quality of life.

When looking to improve joint health, it’s important to address not only immediate pain and stiffness but also to support mobility and connective tissue integrity in the long run.

The Link Between Omega-3 and Joint Health

So, what’s the link between omega-3s and joint health? Quite a strong one, actually!

Research shows omega-3s have substantial benefit for joint health. The anti-inflammatory qualities of Omega-3 in particular is what makes them work so well.

One of the main ways Omega-3s reduce joint inflammation is by balancing out another fat in the body called Omega-6.

Today’s ultraprocessed diets contain far too much Omega-6, promoting inflammation, and not enough Omega-3s to counteract it. Bumping up your intake of Omega-3 helps to restore this balance, resulting in less inflammation and joint pain. [2]

What’s more, Omega-3s work to support collagen production. Collagen is a protein that is used to build cartilage in your joints. [3] By boosting collagen production, Omega-3s work to delay joint health problems in the long run.

Okay, sounds good, but let’s now look at concrete evidence on omega-3s and joint pain.

A Case in Point – Omega 3’s Effects on Joint Repair

Here’s the title of the study we’re looking at: “Omega-3 fatty acids enhance ligament fibroblast collagen formation in association with changes in interleukin-6 production”.

Authors are: K D Hankenson, B A Watkins, I A Schoenlein, K G Allen, J J Turek.

The study is from January 2000.

This research paper, which was published in proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine shows that omega-3 fats positively influence collagen levels in ligament fibroblasts. These ligament fibroblasts are cells responsible for the production and maintenance of ligament tissue.

The researchers looked at the effects of specific omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on the healing response of medial collateral ligament (MCL) fibroblasts. They used eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which is one of the two main types of omega-3s (the other one being DHA).

So, what did they find?

In essence, they saw that EPA increased collagen synthesis and overall amount of collagen produced. What’s interesting is that the level of a cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6), was highly linked to collagen production.

To sum it up in simple terms, this paper shows that omega-3 fatty acids support collagen formation in ligaments. This means you can safely use omega-3s to improve ligament healing, let’s say.

With that said, this study was done specifically in the context of ligament fibroblasts, not joint health and arthritis in general. The results look promising nonetheless. [3]

How much Omega-3 for Joint Pain?

Generally, 1-1.5g of omega-3s is recommended as the ideal dosage for adults.

It’s best to get your omega-3s from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Try to weave these into your diet two to three times per week.

If you’re a vegetarian, don’t fret. You can get your Omega-3s from flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and algae-based supplements.

Omega-3 supplements are decenet for those who can’t get enough omega-3s from their diet alone. Although they should by no means be a replacement. It’s crucial to choose high-quality supplement to ensure you’re getting the benefits. Unfortunately, there are many weak and ineffective omega-3 supplements on the market today.

Any Side Effects to Consider?

While Omega-3s are typically easy on our digestion, some people may get bloating or diarrhea when first starting with supplementation. This usually is mild and goes over time. If it keeps happening, stop using omega-3 supplements and talk to your doctor.

Blood Thinning Effect

This one is important. Omega-3 fatty acids have a blood-thinning effect. This is beneficial for preventing clots, yes. However, it is risky for people with bleeding disorders or those on anticoagulant meds. If you fall into either of these categories, don’t take omega-3 supplements before consulting with your doctor. Some omega-3 foods here and there are fine, but they too should be avoided in high amounts if you belong to one of these people groups.

Fish Allergies

This is an obvious one. For people with allergies to fish or seafood, fish oil-based Omega-3 supplements are best avoided. The good news is that algae-based supplements are an effective plant-based alternative.

Omega-3 and Other Joint Health Supplements

While omega-3s are great, they are unlikely to get rid of joint pain on their own. For more comprehensive support, we are fans of combining Omega-3s with other well-studied joint health supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and curcumin, to name a few. These compounds work synergistically with Omega-3 to quench inflammation and maintain joint integrity.

Conclusion

Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the best compounds to add to your diet for reducing joint pain. But, just like with any supplement, it’s important to do proper research on the brand you’re buying from and any potential side effects that may happen depending on your medical history. Omega-3s work best when combined with other supplements such as turmeric for fighting joint pain.

References

  1. Calder PC. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes. Nutrients. 2010 Mar;2(3):355-374. doi: 10.3390/nu2030355. Epub 2010 Mar 18. PMID: 22254027; PMCID: PMC3257651.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257651/#:~:text=In%20addition%20to%20effects%20on,growth%20factors%20and%20matrix%20proteases.
  2. Kostoglou-Athanassiou I, Athanassiou L, Athanassiou P. The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Rheumatoid Arthritis. Mediterr J Rheumatol. 2020 Jun 30;31(2):190-194. doi: 10.31138/mjr.31.2.190. PMID: 32676556; PMCID: PMC7362115.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7362115/
  3. Hankenson KD, Watkins BA, Schoenlein IA, Allen KG, Turek JJ. Omega-3 fatty acids enhance ligament fibroblast collagen formation in association with changes in interleukin-6 production. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 2000 Jan;223(1):88-95. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1373.2000.22312.x. PMID: 10632966.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10632966/

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