Can omega-3 oils help reduce CRP and inflammation?
Physicians routinely monitor the CRP (C reactive protein) levels in arthritis patients. CRP concentrations reflect the amount of general inflammation in the body.
Reducing the inflammation throughout the body can help reduce the joint inflammation. Inflammation is fueled by prostaglandins which also trigger the release of IL-1 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Omega 6 fatty acids provide the building blocks for these prostaglandins. In contrast, omega 3 oils provide the building blocks for prostacyclins which help turn off inflammatory reactions.
But does it work in humans?
Bowden et al. (2009) reported that patients who consumed specific omega 3 oils daily (960mg eicospentaenoic acid (EPA) and 600 mg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) significantly reduced their CRP levels (by approx. 25%).
Cleland et al showed in a double blind, placebo controlled trial that patients who ate 5 g of omega 3 oils daily and took standard medications more than doubled their rate of remission (72%) than those who only took the medications (remission rate was 31%).
Our bodies require that we eat about 3 tablespoons of essential fatty acids a day and about 20%-35% of our calories from fats. Fatty acids are classified by their chain length and the number of double bonds. Humans need 3 types of essential fatty acids: omega 3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, alpha linolenic acid), omega-6 fatty acids and omega 9 fatty acids.
These essential fats are needed in every cell membrane (all 100 trillion of them), but also in the sheaths or covers of each of our nerves. They are the building blocks of many compounds that regulate the immune response, inflammation, cell growth, appetite, and moods. Before the advent of processed food, humans ate foods that provided approx. the same amount of omega 3 oil as omega 6 oils. People who eat a lot of processed food, regular grocery store meats and farmed fish eat approx. 10 to 30 times more omega 6 oils, which raise inflammation, than omega-3 oils, which resolve or calm inflammation.
Food sources of omega 3 oils include cold water fish including wild Alaskan salmon, and sardines, walnuts and other nuts, and freshly ground flaxseed. Pasture raised meats or game also provide much omega-3 oils. Omega-3 oils are fairly unstable and react with the oxygen in the air. If you grind your own flaxseed, we found that it retains freshness the best in a glass container in the freezer.
There are now many different suppliers of fish oils and a few suppliers of krill oil. Good quality fish oil or krill oil should be taken with food and should not cause you to belch the fish oil taste back up. If you burp up fish oil, I recommend getting a different manufacturer. We have had good experiences with Standard Process Tuna Oil capsules, and Super FF capsules. We have also been happy with Krill oil from Swanson’s Vitamins and Carlson’s Cod liver oil.
Most people eat too much omega-6 oils, as it’s present in oils from corn, soybeans, sunflowers, safflower, canola, and most or all processed food.
Omega 9 fatty acids are found in olive oil and it could be beneficial to switch to olive oil for most or all of your cooking.
Personally, we use organic palm oil and coconut oil in place of shortening, and olive oil instead of vegetable or corn oil. We sprinkle ground flaxseed on crackers with nut butters, potatoes, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.
We do not use margarine because of the transfat (hydrogenated oil) content. Please note that manufacturers are allowed to say their product is “transfat free” if it has less than 0.5g transfat per serving. Many manufacturers have reduced the serving size or added a little oil to get the serving size below 0.5g transfat level. To check for transfat in the product, look at the ingredients list and any oil that is partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated is a transfat. Avoid the product like the plague.
Your enzymes can not tell the difference between normal corn oil and hydrogenated corn oil so it puts the whatever corn oil in your cell membranes. If hydrogenated oil, your enzymes are putting a solid oil in the membrane where a liquid belongs—It makes your cells sluggish. Personally, I prefer speed to sluggish.
Here’s to your enjoying wild Alaskan salmon, walnuts, almonds, ground flaxseed, olive oil and helping calm inflammation.
Here’s to your healing!
Katherine Molnar-Kimber, Ph.D.
P.S. A colleague of mine, Paul Martens, is selling his book, called the Motivated Life today on Amazon. There’s a bunch of bonus gifts for purchasing it today, if you’re so inclined. The URL is
1 Bowden, R. G., Wilson, R. L., Deike, E. & Gentile, M. Fish oil supplementation lowers C-reactive protein levels independent of triglyceride reduction in patients with end-stage renal disease. Nutr Clin Pract 24, 508-512, doi:0884533609335376 [pii] 10.1177/0884533609335376 (2009).
2 Cleland, L. G., Caughey, G. E., James, M. J. & Proudman, S. M. Reduction of cardiovascular risk factors with longterm fish oil treatment in early rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol 33, 1973-1979 (2006).
This information is not medical advise. Please consult your healthcare provider before changing your routine.