Hope for Lupus: Research finds fish oils reduce symptoms

New research from the University of Ulster offers hope to millions of lupus sufferers worldwide. Dr Emeir Duffy and Dr Gary Meenagh have discovered new evidence to suggest that fish oil can greatly reduce the symptoms of the disease.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or lupus is a disorder of the immune system, where the body harms its own healthy cells and tissues. The body tissues become damaged, causing painful or swollen joints, unexplained fever, skin rashes, kidney problems, complications to the cardiovascular system and extreme fatigue. SLE is most common in women of child-bearing age.

Recently researchers have been looking specifically at managing lupus through diet. Fish oils contain long-chained polyunsaturated fatty acids which are essential for normal growth and development but also have anti-inflammatory and anti-autoimmune properties.

“In lupus, the body’s immune system does not work as it should,” says Dr Duffy. The immune system actually produces antibodies against the body’s own healthy cells and tissues, which contribute to inflammation and other symptoms of the disease.

The researchers found that participants in the study who were taking fish oil supplements (3 times per day for 24 weeks) saw a reduction in disease activity, an improvement in quality of life and reported an overall feeling of improved health by the end of the study, compared to those taking a placebo. Those taking the fish oil also showed a reduction in fatigue severity, the most debilitating symptom for lupus sufferers.

“From our study and from other work, there is evidence that increasing dietary intake of the polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish can have beneficial effects for lupus sufferers,” says Duffy. Food sources of fatty fish include mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, tuna and salmon. High quality fish oil supplements are also available at health and nutrition stores.

University of Ulster, Mar 11, 2003