Rheumatoid arthritis is an extremely painful condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints.

Over time this can lead to destruction of joint surfaces and cartilage, meaning hands and feet become disfigured, difficult to use and ever more painful. There is no cure, and treatment is focussed around controlling symptoms and trying to prevent ‘flare-ups’ of the disease. Often this involves the use of strong pain killers and drugs to suppress the immune system; many of which come with a long and difficult-to-manage list of side-effects.

Affecting millions of people and commonly starting at middle age, rheumatoid arthritis is a challenging problem. Researchers are constantly looking for new ways to try and reduce pain or slow down the progression of this distressing disease.

A new report from Harvard Medical School in the US has identified a simple diet change which they found significantly reduced symptoms in over 150 study participants – eating more fish. The study asked people how often they ate fish, and compared this to disease severity using a well-recognised scoring system. They found that the arthritis in people who ate fish at least twice a week was significantly better controlled than in those who ate fish less than once a month. They also found that in this case more really is better – for each additional portion of fish consumed, the severity of symptoms dropped even further.

Eating fish has a wide range of health benefits – being low in fat and cholesterol, it can help ward off heart disease; with high omega 3 levels it is good for the brain; and it is packed with vitamins such as vitamin  D for stronger bones. It seems we can add to this the fact that, for a specific group of patients, eating more fish can help in the control of a particularly painful joint condition, rheumatoid arthritis.