Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Rheumatic Diseases: A Critical Review
Many clinical trials of omega-3 fatty acids, supplied as fish oil supplements, have been carried out in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), lupus nephritis, and osteoarthritis (OA) over the past 3 decades. This review attempts to summarize the highlights of these studies to evaluate the clinical efficacy for omega-3 fatty acids to be added alongside existing treatment regimens. A total of 20 clinical trials have been carried out in RA, of which 16 exhibited significant improvements in multiple disease clinical outcomes. Nine clinical trials have been completed in SLE and lupus nephritis, of which 6 exhibited significant improvements in 1 or more clinical outcomes. A total of 4 clinical trials have been conducted in OA, of which 3 exhibited significant improvements in at least 1 clinical parameter. Multiple mechanisms for the clinical effects of omega-3 fatty acids have been implicated, including the modulation of eicosanoid synthesis toward a more anti-inflammatory profile and suppressed production of proinflammatory cytokines. Overall, fish oil supplements appear to be a safe and effective agent that could be added to the current treatment regimens in RA. Longer-term trials with larger patient cohort sizes are warranted to establish any long-term benefits of fish oil supplements in SLE, lupus nephritis, and OA.