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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 00:04 GMT
Cod liver oil benefits confirmed
Cod liver oil has long been thought to help joints
Cod liver oil has long been thought to help joints
Scientists have confirmed the age-old belief that cod liver oil is good for the joints.

Cardiff-based researchers say taking the supplement could delay or even reverse the destruction of joint cartilage and inflammatory pain associated with arthritic disease.

They believe it could even delay joint replacement surgery.

Over one million people in the UK are affected by osteoarthritis,

It's an absolutely rational basis for taking it, rather than a 'hit and hope - my granny thought it might be good for me' approach

Fergus Logan, Arthritis Research Campaign
Although it is traditionally associated with old age, one in 1,000 children suffers from arthritis.

Severe arthritis causes significant disability for over three million people.

The condition can be life-threatening through its effect on other organs in the body and increased susceptibility to infection.

In the Cardiff research, Professor Bruce Caterson of the School of Biomedicine at Cardiff University looked at the effect of Omega-3 fatty acids (the main component of cod liver oil) on the discarded arthritic knees of people undergoing knee replacement surgery.

Professor Bruce Caterson who carried out the research
Professor Bruce Caterson who carried out the research
Some were treated with Omega-3 fatty acids for 24 hours in a laboratory - others were not.

A chemical was added to mimic an inflammatory response, and the samples examined four days later.

When researchers looked at the cartilage pieces, they found a particular kind of a body chemical called enzymes, which was responsible for destroying cartilage in arthritis, was present in the untreated group.

But they were 'turn off' in those treated with Omega-3 fatty acids, as were the enzymes which cause inflammation and pain in joints.


Professor Caterson said his research had been able to prove the theory cod liver oil could help the joints.

"Cod liver oil, which contains Omega-3 fatty acids can be very very helpful and beneficial in arthritic diseases.

"So in very simple terms, we've been able to show that we can slow down or remove the activities of the enzymes that degrade cartilage in arthritis, and as well, we can keep inflammation down to a lower level."

Fergus Logan, chief executive of the Arthritis Research Campaign, which partly funded the research, said: "Thanks to Professor Caterson, we know precisely what cod liver oil can do, where it can help and how that happens.

'Extremely exciting'

"It's an absolutely rational basis for taking it, rather than a 'hit and hope -my granny thought it might be good for me' approach to medicine which is not particularly well targeted."

"These findings are extremely exciting, and offer a scientific basis for why cod liver oil helps people with arthritis - and has done for many years.

"Not only does cod liver oil reduce pain and inflammation in the joints of people with osteoarthritis but we now know it also turns off the enzymes responsible for destroying cartilage.

"We're delighted that something as simple and non-controversial as cod liver oil has the potential to bring relief and restore quality of life to so many people who suffer from osteoarthritis."

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"An old remedy with a new lease of life"
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