A University of Bristol study published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage recently backed up anecdotal claims that omega-3-rich diets can reduce the damage from osteoarthritis.
Studies have been on dogs and a link was found between omega-3 fatty acids and osteoarthritis, but this most recent research shows the mechanism behind it. The researchers at Bristol, led by Dr. John Tarlton, fed one group of guinea pigs a diet supplemented with omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) and a control group was not fed the supplement. Both fish and flax oil were used but the fish oil was found to be far more effective than the flax oil.
The guinea pigs were examined for cartilage and bone pathology and the group fed the omega-3 supplements shows less prevalence and severity of osteoarthritis. Typical early signs of the condition, such as the degradation of collagen in cartilage and the loss of molecules that give it shock-absorbing properties, were both reduced in the supplemented group. It appears that the omega-3 fats influenced the biochemistry of the disease and not only helped to prevent it, but slowed its progression.
Medical research director of Arthritis Research UK, Professor Alan Silman, said: “The possibility that omega-3 fatty acids could prevent osteoarthritis from developing has been a tantalising one. However, this current research in guinea pigs is exciting as it brings us closer to understanding how omega-3 might fundamentally interfere with the osteoarthritis process, and that it could potentially be taken as a treatment.”
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The recommended level of omega-3 supplementation is 175 mg/kg body weight. If you figure in that soybean oil is 7 percent omega-3 fatty acid, you would need to feed 2.5 mL of oil per kg of body weight. So, for a 20-kg dog, you would feed 50 mL of oil per day.
While this is only a starting dose which you may need to increase for your dog, there are some possible hazards in oversupplementing omega-3 fatty acids, such as a decreased ability for blood to clot, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and hives. Therefore, omega-3 fatty acids should not exceed 4 percent of your dog’s daily caloric intake, or 500mg/kg body weight or 4 tablespoons oil/cup of food. Remember, too, these fats are high in calories, so you may need to adjust the rest of your dog’s diet to keep him or her from putting on extra pounds.