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Vegan DHA Source Found to Help Those with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Fish and fish oils are thought to help relieve symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis, but what if you don’t eat fish due to beliefs or allergies? A new study finds DHA from algae may be of help.


Docosahexaenoic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) which has been linked to many benefits in humans including improving health and quality of life for those with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Traditionally, fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna are considered rich sources of DHA, but for those who can’t or won’t eat fish, there is still a source that may provide benefits.

Publishing in the Clinical Nutrition journal, researchers found that a microalgae oil derived from Schizochytrium sp (providing 2.1 grams DHA per day) for 10 weeks led to a decline in tender and swollen joints associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The study was small, but did find that when compared to a placebo (sunflower oil), the microalgae supplement helped reduce inflammation.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis. It is triggered by a faulty immune system and affects the wrist and small joints of the hand. It affects more than 1.3 million Americans, of which 75% are women.

Omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, may reduce inflammation by blocking inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins. While the supplements do not reverse or cure the disease, it can help decrease joint tenderness and stiffness which can improve quality of life in those that are affected.

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The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests a dose of DHA supplements from algae at 200 mg per day.

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Journal Reference:
Dr. C. Dawczynski et al. Docosahexaenoic acid in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized cross-over study with microalgae vs. sunflower oil. Clinical Nutrition Journal. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2017.02.021

Additional Resources:
Stamp, LK., et al. Diet and rheumatoid arthritis: A review of the literature. Seminars in Arthritis. 35:77-94, 2005.
The Arthritis Foundation
University of Maryland Medical Center