Fish Oil for Arthritis: Pros and Cons

Fish oil is known to help your health in many ways such as improving cardiovascular health, enhancing your brain, and supporting eye health. Studies have shown that fish oil reduces inflammation in the body, morning stiffness, and helps individuals who have psoriasis, lupus, and different types of arthritis. This is because the omega-3 in fish oil has the ability to block many sources of inflammation.

One study found that fish oil caused a reduction of pain in people with arthritis. With this finding, they also concluded that more evidence is necessary to see the effects of fish oil as it relates to the level of improvement and the specific type of arthritis.

Fish oil supplements

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What Is Fish Oil?

Fish oil is an oil that comes from fish tissue or fat. It contains omega-3 fatty acids which offer many health benefits. Other vitamins and minerals that are in fish oil include vitamin A and D. If omega-3 doesn’t come directly from the fish it can be obtained through soft gels, tablets, liquid, or capsules.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods like fish, including tuna mackerel, herring, sardines, and salmon. It's also found in flaxseed and in dietary supplements.

The fatty acids that are in omega-3 are:

  • Eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

EPA and DHA are the two fatty acids that are known to help arthritis patients. Studies have shown that an increase in omega-3 fatty acids can lead to the reduction of inflammation. The way to increase the levels of omega-3 fatty acids is through food and dietary supplements.

Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil

Both krill oil and fish oil have health benefits that help inflammation and arthritis. Krill oil and fish oil have the same omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. There are some differences between the two.:

  • Krill oil has a reddish color due to the antioxidant astaxanthin
  • Fsh oil is golden in color

Research has shown that krill oil is potentially easier to digest in the human body, but more studies need to be conducted to confirm this.

Fish Oil and Arthritis

Arthritis causes inflammation in the body. Fish oil is known to help ease inflammation because it contains omega-3 fatty acids. The body doesn’t naturally produce omega-3 fatty acids, so it's best to get it through diet and/or supplements.

The main fatty acids that are known to help with inflammation are EPA and DHA. This can be obtained through fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, and tuna. Studies have shown that the fatty acids in fish oil can partially inhibit a number of aspects of inflammation.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory and autoimmune disease that affects the joints in the wrists, knees, and hands by causing damage to the joint tissue. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids may regulate the disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the effect of the autoimmune inflammatory response in patients with RA. They have also shown an improvement in the condition and may decrease the activity of RA.

There were clinical trials conducted and the evidence showed that there is a beneficial role for RA patients who take omega-3 fatty acids. More research needs to be conducted for the long-term benefits of omega-3 and its benefits for RA patients.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. More common in older people, osteoarthritis happens when tissues in the joints start to break down over time.

Studies concluded that although EPA and DHA in fish oils reduce inflammation and increase joint lubrication, more studies and human clinical trials need to be conducted to get a full evaluation and determination of whether or not fish oil is beneficial to people with OA.

There were studies that found that fish oil could relieve pain in older OA patients who are obese. More studies have to be conducted to determine if fish oil alone helps patients who have a clinical OA diagnosis.


Gout is an inflammatory arthritis that affects one joint at a time. Most common in the big toe joint, some of the symptoms include pain, swelling, redness, and heat. This is due to too much uric acid in the body.

Although the omega-3 fatty acids that are in fish oil are known to help reduce inflammation, research shows that gout patients who consumed omega-3 and adjusted their intake of certain foods (high fructose corn syrup, organ meat, alcohol, seafoods) that are known to raise uric acid levels had a lower risk of reoccurring gout flares. When omega-3 was taken alone, there was no reduction. More research needs to be conducted to determine whether fish oils specifically help gout patients.


You can get the benefits of fish oils through foods and supplements. The reference daily intake (RDI) of omega-3 fatty acids is 1,600 for men and 1,100 for women. The RDI for EPA and DHA is 200-500 mg.

What to Look for in a Fish Oil Supplement

When shopping for a fish oil supplement, look at the ingredients and make sure it has the proper levels of EPA and DHA. It is also important to consider the other vitamins and minerals that are in the supplement to avoid overdoses or interactions with medication.

It is recommended to find supplements that has a seal of seal of purity from the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED). It is important to discuss options with your health care professional.

Risks and Side Effects

The risks, side effects, and overdose symptoms include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Bad breath
  • Unpleasant taste
  • Heartburn
  • Nosebleeds
  • Insomnia
  • Vitamin A toxicity

Fish oils are also known to increase blood sugar levels, so individuals with diabetes should contact their health care professional to discuss proper options. Fish oils are known to potentially interact with some medications. Contact your health care professional to discuss the potential interaction of medications and fish oil supplements.

A Word From Verywell

Fish oil can be a beneficial addition to your overall health. With all of the health benefits, it is important to speak with your health care professional before adding any supplement, vitamin, or mineral to your diet. They can give you the proper recommendations regarding the type of fish oil and the doses that will support your health.

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