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Health News Archive 695 - Arthritis
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Neptune Krill Oil Helps Reduce Chronic Inflammation and Arthritic Pain

Chronic inflammation is closely associated with the destruction of the arteries in atherosclerosis and of the joints in osteoarthritis and the autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis. In rheumatoid arthritis, white blood cells are sent to the joints as if an infection was occurring. This starts a cascade process that ends in destruction of the fluid in the joint and eventually the cartilage and bone resulting in immobility and intense pain. Most of the joint destruction appears to occur within the first two years after onset.

One of the most useful markers of inflammation is the presence of C-reactive protein (CRP). It is a strong predictor of cardiac events and the level of CRP in the blood stream correlates closely with inflammation, joint destruction, and pain in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Traditionally non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were used to treat chronic inflammation and pain. While non-specific NSAIDs are consider safe when used occasionally in low dose (e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen), COX-2 inhibitors have been shown to increase risk of cardiac events.  Safer alternative treatments need to be found.

Neptune Krill Oil was examined in this study to see what effect it might have on chronic inflammation as measured by CRP in patient’s blood and on arthritic pain and mobility. Krill oil contains large amounts of phospholipids, potent antioxidants including astaxanthin and a high ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Phospholipids protect cell membranes from injury; the omega-3’s EPA and DHA trigger secretion of anti-inflammatory biochemicals; and astaxanthin inhibits production of pro-inflammatory biochemicals.

In this random, double blind study, 90 patients with chronic inflammation as measured by elevated blood CRP due to cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis were divided into two equal groups. The first group received 300 mg per day of Neptune Krill Oil (NKO) while the second received a placebo. Before the study began, all patients refrained from taking any pain medication except acetaminophen and any supplements of foods containing high levels of omega-6 for two weeks. During the study, blood samples were taken at 7, 14 and 30 days to measure serum CRP. Pain and mobility were measured in arthritic patients using the WOMAC questionnaire which is a standard method of evaluation for arthritic pain.

After 7 days, the Neptune Krill Oil group had reduced their CRP levels by an average of 19.3% while the placebo group increased their CRP levels by 15.7% (p=0.049). After 14 days, the NKO group had reduced their CRP levels by 29.7% while the placebo group had increased their CRP by 32.1% (p=0.004). After 30 days, the NKO group’s CRP levels dropped slightly to 30.7% while the placebo group’s went down slightly (p=0.008 for the difference in CRP levels).

The WOMAC scores showed that NKO patients after 7 days had reduced pain scores (28.9%), reduced stiffness (20.3%) and reduced functional impairment (22.8%) (p values = 0.050, 0.001, 0.008 respectively) compared to the placebo group. The benefits of NKO supplementation continued at days 14 and 30. The NKO group also consumed significantly less acetaminophen to manage pain during the trial.

No adverse effects were observed in NKO patients during this trial.

In conclusion, 300mg per day of Neptune Krill Oil appears to significantly inhibit inflammation but further research is needed to compare its effect to NSAIDs and evaluate long term effects.

“Scientists estimate that about 2.1 million people, or between 0.5 and 1 percent of the U.S. adult population, have rheumatoid arthritis. Although the disease often begins in middle age and occurs with increased frequency in older people, children and young adults also develop it. Like some other forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis occurs much more frequently in women than in men. From an economic standpoint, the medical and surgical treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and the wages lost because of disability caused by the disease add up to billions of dollars annually.”

Source: Duetsch, Luisa, MD, Evaluation of the Effect of Neptune Krill Oil on Chronic Inflammation and Arthritic Symptoms, J Am College of Nutrition (2007) 16(1):39-78.

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