WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Nov. 7, 2007 (Boston) -- Fish oil supplements may help improve the symptoms
of lupus, according to new research presented at the American College of
Rheumatology's annual meeting. What's more, the supplements also improve blood
flow and blood vessel function in people with lupus
who are known to be at increased risk for heart
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body engages in
friendly fire against its own tissues and organs including the skin,
joints, kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, and blood. It affects close to 1.5
million Americans, according to the SLE Lupus Foundation in New York City.
In the new study of 60 people with lupus, participants who took 3 grams of
omega-3 polyunsaturated fish oil supplements daily for six months showed
improvements in the symptoms of their disease, as measured by two standard
tools, when compared to their counterparts who received dummy pills.
In addition, the participants who took the fish oil supplements also showed
improved blood vessel function and a reduction in measures of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to heart
"This study confirms the beneficial effects of omega-3 fish oils in
improving the symptoms of [lupus] and also provides evidence of the potential
cardioprotective effect they may have in this group of patients,"
researcher Stephen Wright, MD, a specialist registrar in rheumatology at
Queen's University of Belfast in Northern Ireland, says in a news release.
Aside from being a disease of the immune system, lupus is also a vascular
disease, points out John J. Cush, MD, director of clinical rheumatology at
Baylor Research Institute in Dallas.
"We spend a lot of time talking about the immune system in lupus, but we
recognize there is a very important vascular component to this disease," he
says. "Lupus has cumulative effects on the blood vessels over the years,
and this also needs to be addressed."
Fish oil supplements may help address the blood vessel damage seen in the
disease, he says.
The new study is "very encouraging and speaks to another way that lupus
can be successfully managed," Cush tells WebMD.
Cush says the benefits seen in the study are probably not achievable by
simply eating more fatty fish in the diet because the amount of fish that a
person would need to eat on a regular basis to get 3 grams of omega-3 is too
"Patients with lupus need to control blood
pressure, avoid high-fat diets that are bad for vascular diseases of any
kind, and maybe use of omega-3 supplements," Cush says. "They are
fairly cheap and may produce benefits without producing any harm."
The bottom line? "This is encouraging information that merits larger
study in larger number of patients over longer time," he says.
Remember to tell your rheumatologist about whatever supplements you are
taking, Cush says.
SOURCES: 2007 annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology,
Boston, Nov. 7-11, 2007. Stephen Wright, MD, specialist registrar in
rheumatology, Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland. John J. Cush,
MD, director of clinical rheumatology, Baylor Research Institute, Dallas. SLE
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