Cartilage is the 'gristle' that cushions bones and prevents them from grinding against each other. Loss of cartilage leads to osteoarthritis, the painful and disabling condition experienced by 1.5 million people in the UK and the major reason for joint replacement surgery.
Cod Liver Oil's reputation for relieving the inflammatory processes involved in rheumatoid arthritis, a disease of the immune system affecting around 350,000 people including children, is already well established.
These new findings, by Professor Bruce Caterson at Cardiff University, bring hope to sufferers of the more prevalent osteoarthritic joint disease, particularly to those who are unable, because of adverse side effects, to take the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and COX-2 inhibitors commonly prescribed for the condition.
Professor Caterson explains that the Omega-3 fatty acids in Cod Liver Oil work by switching off the aggrecan- and collagen-degrading enzymes that break down joint cartilage. This, in effect, slows the progress of cartilage destruction that occurs in arthritis, reduces inflammation and thus lessens pain. He goes on to say, "Two years ago, research teams led by Professor John Harwood and myself at Cardiff University reported findings suggesting that the Omega-3 fatty acids in Cod Liver Oil can reduce cartilage degradation and inflammation in arthritic disease. Our most recent work shows that by exposing human osteoarthritic cartilage to Cod Liver Oil in the laboratory for just 24 hours we can turn off, or reverse, the action of the degradative enzymes and inflammatory factors affecting the tissue". Adds Professor Harwood, "This is where science and old wives' tales coincide. Our findings are consistent with advice that taking Cod Liver Oil in early adulthood could prevent the onset of osteoarthritis and would reduce the harmful symptoms associated with the disease."
A spokesperson for the Arthritis Research Campaign, which part-funded the research, commented: 'We are currently directing a share of our research grants to investigation of non-drug therapies as many people are unable to tolerate the side effects of drug treatment. We are delighted that something as simple and widely available as Cod Liver Oil has the potential to bring relief and restore quality of life to so many'.
Professor Caterson's findings will be published in the journal "Arthritis and Rheumatism" later this year.