Joints and omega-3

As a person grows old, alterations associated with old age, such as joint pain, can appear. Joints are connections between bones or cartilage which move under the control of nerves in the skeletal muscles. The bones and joints act as levers when the attached muscles contract, thus facilitating movement (1). If we fail to look after ourselves, diseases can appear that affect quality of life. Both men and women can end up suffering in the future, which is why prevention is important. Prevention helps reduce the appearance of diseases such as osteoarthritis and arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease associated with age and wear to the joints (2). It is the most frequent joint disease, mainly affecting the backbone, knees and shoulders. Arthritis is a more severe disease that includes all rheumatic pathologies that cause inflammation of the joints. There are various symptoms, from mild to acute pain, swelling and even difficulty in moving the joints, and bear in mind arthritis is one of the most prevalent chronic health problems and one of the main causes of disability in the world (3).

In the USA, it is estimated that there are 46 million people diagnosed with arthritis and in 2030 there will be 67 million (3).

As it is a chronic, continuous pain, it is not just physically but also emotionally undermining. Quality of life deteriorates and patients notice how their capacities are reduced over time.

Arthritis is the most frequent cause of reduced activity, above heart disease, cancer and diabetes (3).

Although the disease can affect both sexes, there is a greater prevalence among women (28.3%) than men (18.2%) and it increases particularly with old age after 65 (3). As previously mentioned, arthritis is a rheumatic disease and can lead to rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, arthritis-specific fibromyalgia (although less frequent, but still deserving a mention). However, the most common condition among the population, and one that requires its own section, is osteoarthritis. Among other signs, osteoarthritis is categorised by breakage of joint cartilage. It affects 27 million Americans over 45 years of age (3). The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that it is one of the 10 most debilitating diseases occurring in developed countries. Furthermore, 80% of people suffering from osteoarthritis will have their movement limited and 25% will not be able to carry out one or more activities in daily life (4). Some of the factors that could have caused it are obesity, ageing or worn joints (5).

Why choose omega-3?

Because omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to exert a positive effect on inflammatory joint diseases (6). The scientific evidence shows that consumption of fish oil supplements with EPA and DHA reduces synthesis of pro-inflammatory factors in cartilage (6), i.e. it has an anti-inflammatory effect, reduces destruction and increases formation of cartilage (7). The main benefit of omega-3 in rheumatoid arthritis is that it improves the level of inflammation in swollen joints and reduces morning stiffness (8). Consuming less omega-6 and more omega-3 fatty acids reduces the inflammatory mediators in rheumatoid arthritis (9).


1. Procedures related to movement and physical activity needs. Musculo-skeletal system. Procedures. (access date: 17/1/2014). 2. Gutiérrez Polo R. Artritis y artrosis: procesos reumáticos diferentes. Zona Hospitalaria. 2007; 3:12-3. 3. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis prevalence: A nation in pain. (access date: 17/3/2015). 4. WHO. Chronic rheumatic conditions. (access date: 13/1/2014). 5. NIH. Osteoartritis. (access date: 13/1/2014). 6. Watkins BA, Li Y, Lippman HE, Seifert MF. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and skeletal health. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2001 Jun; 226(6): 485-97. 7. Dzielska-Olczak M, Nowak JZ. Antiinfammatory therapy in ostheoarthritis including omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2012 May; 32(191): 329-34. 8. Kremer JM. n-3 fatty acid supplements in rheumatoid arthritis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan; 71(1 Suppl): 349S-51S. 9. Covington MB. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Am Fam Physician. 2004 Jul 1; 70(1): 133-40. (access date: 13/1/2014).

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