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Plasma n-3 fatty acids and clinical outcomes in recent-onset rheumatoid arthritis

  • Susanna M. Proudman (a1) (a2), Leslie G. Cleland (a1) (a2), Robert G. Metcalf (a1), Thomas R. Sullivan (a3), Llewellyn D. Spargo (a1) and Michael J. James (a1) (a2)...


A randomised controlled trial (RCT) of high-dose v. low-dose fish oil in recent-onset rheumatoid arthritis (RA) demonstrated that the group allocated to high-dose fish oil had increased remission and decreased failure of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) therapy. This study examines the relationships between plasma phospholipid levels of the n-3 fatty acids in fish oil, EPA and DHA, and remission and DMARD use in recent-onset RA. EPA and DHA were measured in blood samples from both groups of the RCT. The data were analysed as a single cohort, and Cox proportional hazards models were used to examine relationships between plasma phospholipid (PL) EPA and DHA and various outcome measures. When analysed as a single cohort, plasma PL EPA was related to time to remission, with a one unit increase in EPA (1 % total fatty acids) associated with a 12 % increase in the probability of remission at any time during the study period (hazard ratio (HR)=1·12; 95 % CI 1·02, 1·23; P=0·02). Adjustment for smoking, anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies and ‘shared epitope’ HLA-DR allele status did not change the HR. Plasma PL EPA, adjusted for the same variables, was negatively related to time to DMARD failure (HR=0·85; 95 % CI 0·72, 0·99; P=0·047). The HR for DHA and time to remission or DMARD failure were similar in magnitude to those for EPA, but not statistically significant. Biomarkers of n-3 status, such as plasma PL EPA, have the potential to predict clinical outcomes relevant to standard drug treatment of RA patients.


Corresponding author

* Corresponding author: S. M. Proudman, fax: +61 8 8222 5895, email


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