New study finds no value in vitamin D and fish oil in treatment of osteoarthritis


fish-oil-and-osteoarthritisAnyone suffering from pain and lack of mobility as a result of knee osteoarthritis will be keen to explore treatments that could possibly alleviate discomfort and restore full movement without the need for extensive knee surgery. One complementary approach which is widely thought to be useful in reducing inflammation and slowing down the disintegration of knee cartilage is the use of vitamin D and fish oil supplements, but in a study published this week these supplements were found to have no distinguishable impact on knee osteoarthritis.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the study was performed by a team of Australian researchers at the University of Tasmania. Half of the group of 413 osteoarthritis sufferers were given vitamin D supplements and the other half were given a placebo. When re-examined two years later, using MRI scans for cartilage volume and the WOMAC pain score to measure knee pain, researchers found no marked difference between the the two groups.

Ding Changhai, the lead researcher, stated that: “This data suggests a lack of evidence to support vitamin D supplementation for slowing disease progression or reducing knee pain in osteoarthritis.”

This follows on from an earlier study performed by the same group into the efficacy of fish oil that found it to be ineffective for both relieving pain and increasing knee mobility.

How is fish oil and vitamin D thought to help alleviate osteoarthritis?

Fish oils (either body or liver oil) are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. These are required by the body to boost the immune system and they help to fight inflammation of the joints by blocking production of protaglandins, as well lowering levels of cholesterol and triglyceride in your blood. Fish oil is also rich in vitamin D which is needed for maintenance of our joints, in particular the production of proteglycan in cartilage.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that fish oils may improve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms but its use in alleviating osteoarthritis has not been clinically proven and this study further undermines its claims.

What are the treatment options for knee osteoarthritis?

Pain killers, either analgesics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are typically prescribed for those suffering from knee osteoarthritis, thought to affect approximately 10 per cent of men and 13 per cent of women over the age of 60. They can help to relieve pain and stiffness, but will not be able to repair damage. Steroid injections are sometimes prescribed. When other treatments are not providing adequate relief, joint replacement surgery may be advised. For advice on knee osteoarthritis, book a consultation with Mr Jonathan Webb at either his London or Bristol clinics.