New research from the University of Ulster today offered hope to millions of lupus sufferers worldwide. Dr Emeir Duffy, from the School of Biomedical Sciences, and Dr Gary Meenagh, from Musgrave Park Hospital, Belfast, have discovered new evidence to suggest that fish oil can greatly reduce the symptoms of the disease.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or Lupus is a disorder of the Immune System, where the body harms its own healthy cells and tissues. The body tissues become damaged causing painful or swollen joints, unexplained fever, skin rashes, kidney problems, complications to the cardiovascular system and extreme fatigue. There are approximately 500 diagnosed cases of SLE in Northern Ireland and it is most common in women of child-bearing age.
At present there is no cure but a key to managing lupus is to understand the disease and its impact. Steroids are the main drug used in the treatment of lupus and they should be administered for the shortest period possible to reduce side-effects. But recently researchers have been looking specifically at its management through diet.
Fish oils contain long-chained polyunsaturated fatty acids which are essential for normal growth and development but also have anti-inflammatory and anti-autoimmune properties. Dr Duffy said: “We have been investigating how fish oil can improve the quality of life for lupus sufferers. “In lupus, the body's immune system does not work as it should. Antibodies, which help fight viruses, bacteria and other foreign substances, are not produced effectively. The immune system actually produces antibodies against the body's own healthy cells and tissues. These auto-antibodies contribute to inflammation and other symptoms of the disease.
“Participants in the study who were taking fish oil supplements, three times per day for twenty-four weeks, saw a reduction in disease activity, an improvement in quality of life and reported an overall feeling of improved health by the end of the study compared to those taking a placebo supplement. Participants taking the fish oil also showed a reduction in fatigue severity, the most debilitating symptom for lupus sufferers. “From our study and from other work, there is evidence that increasing dietary intake of the polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish can have beneficial effects for lupus sufferers. Good examples of fatty fish include mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, tuna and salmon”.More