Does Fish Oil Help Gout?
'A Quick Readers Question From A Gout Sufferer'
The Short Answer –
Oily fish and particularly shellfish are disastrous for gout. Fish oil however, is not necessarily the same. Does fish oil help gout or is it just as dangerous for gout as purine-rich oily fish?
In this article, we break it down and find the safety in fish oil, revealing it to be a useful supplement – especially if you suffer with gout!
Does Fish Oil Help Gout – A Background On Fish And Gout
Gout is a disease brought on principally by diet – the more you eat of the wrong foods means the more uric acid your body will produce.
Once this production of uric acid starts to outweigh the rate at which your kidneys can excrete it, then a build up starts to occur. This build-up is known as hyperuricemia and is the precursor to gout as the excess uric acid gets turned in to urate crystals that attach to your joints, causing the inflamed agony that is gout pain (or ‘gouty arthritis’).
Purine-rich fish are well known disaster foods for gout. Purines are one of the largest contributors to the production of uric acid and so rightly earn their place on many a gout sufferers ‘avoid’ list. Not all seafood has the same purine concentration levels though – mackerel, mussels, trout, haddock, herring, crab and lobster are typically considered the worst.
Some seafoods however, such as Soles or Cod are the complete opposite and have low purine levels.
Perhaps the key point in answering our members question ‘does fish oil help gout?’ is whether the purines from fish meat can be transferred to fish oil as well.
The Benefits Of Fish Oils
The simple answer, as backed up by The Arthritis Foundation is that purines are NOT transferred from the fish meat to the molecularly distilled fish oil.
So if fish oil does not contain purines, then we can assume that it probably isn’t a trigger of gout, but can it do any good?
Well, we know that gout or ‘gouty arthritis’ is an arthritis that affects the synovial fluid around the joints. One of the best long-term treatments for creaky, painful joints has long been rumoured to be fish oils.
The potential benefits of fish oils can be summarised as follows –
- Can reduce inflammation
- May help weight loss.
- May help healthy skin
- May help during pregnancy and early life
- May improve mental health
- Could help promote a healthy heart
- Might help joint health
- May strengthen bones
You may notice that for each ‘benefit’ I prefixed with ‘may’, ‘can’ or ‘could’. The simple reason for this is that most of these alleged benefits are not guaranteed. For every benefit listed, I could show you two trials that suggest the benefit and one that contradicts it.
Americans spend over $1 billion a year on regular fish oil supplements, so it is clear this is a massive industry and one which would gladly pay to spread further propaganda around the prospective benefits.
But that is a whole different piece to look at. it is probably best for the purposes of challenging the benefits for gout to assume that the claims fish oil makes are indeed accurate.
The World Health Organisation itself recommends eating two portions of fish per week for the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids present. These omega-3s are known to be better for you than the omega-3s found in plants.
The principle omega-3 fatty acids to be found in fish oil are ‘Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)’ and ‘Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)’.
Neither of these contain purines that might lead to higher uric acid production.
Fish oils also typically contain Vitamins A and D.
In most cases of arthritis, Vitamin D can play an important role in cartilage health, while Vitamin A is a strong antioxidant, preventing cell damage.
However, in the case of gout, this is far less important.
The relevant benefits for fighting gout revolve around the first two benefits listed above – fighting inflammation and losing weight.
Does Fish Oil Help Gout – The Evidence
It is well known that a large part of the pain from gout originates from the inflammation and swelling of joints. A trial conducted as recently as December 2019 in the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes has looked at the ‘specialized pro-resolving mediators’ (SPMs) produced during the conversion of omega3 fatty acids and their impact on inflammation.
It concluded a successful impact on inflammation, which if you are a potential gout sufferer could have a very valuable part to play.
Add that then to the potential benefits for weight loss – with fish oil claimed to help minimize fat storage, make workouts easier (and thus more effective) and decrease your appetite.
Losing weight and getting regular exercise are fully accepted as actions that will also greatly reduce the frequency of gout attacks as well as their severity.
The Final Word –
So…. does fish oil help gout?
Well… yes… and in a positive way. With few side effects whatsoever and plenty of potential additional benefits not relevant to gout (as well as those that are), we can propose that any impact on inflammation or exercise/ weight loss will greatly help to reduce the incidence and severity of gout attacks.
One word of caution however, the quality of supplements can vary greatly. In some countries they’ve even been found not to contain the ingredients listed (New Zealand).
We can assume however that the FDA and the FSA would ensure the quality of production in the US and the UK respectively.
Recommended doses of fish oil…
However, you should still make sure you know what you are getting. You should look to consume at least 2,000 milligrams (mg) every day of EPA and DHA (the two key omega3 fatty acids we mentioned earlier) within their recommended capsule dose.
If you follow this guideline, you should be getting enough fish oil to make a positive difference to your gout attacks over a period of time. And then the fish oil should indeed help your gout.
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4. Ramel A, Martinéz A, Kiely M, Morais G, Bandarra NM, Thorsdottir I. (July 2008). Beneficial Effects Of Long-Chain n-3 Fatty Acids Included In An Energy-Restricted Diet On Insulin Resistance In Overweight And Obese European Young Adults. Diabetologia.
5. Albert BB, Derraik JG, Cameron-Smith D, Hofman PL, Tumanov S, Villas-Boas SG, Garg ML, Cutfield WS. (Jan 2015). Fish oil supplements in New Zealand are highly oxidised and do not meet label content of n-3 PUFA. Scientific Reports.
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