Effects of n-3 fatty acids on cartilage metabolism

Proc Nutr Soc. 2002 Aug;61(3):381-9. doi: 10.1079/PNS2002174.


Although the clinical benefits of dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) has been recognised for a number of years, the molecular mechanisms by which particular PUFA affect metabolism of cells within the synovial joint tissues are not understood. This study set out to investigate how n-3 PUFA and other classes of fatty acids affect both degradative and inflammatory aspects of metabolism of articular cartilage chondrocytes using an in vitro model of cartilage degradation. Using well-established culture models, cartilage explants from normal bovine and human osteoarthritic cartilage were supplemented with either n-3 or n-6 PUFA, and cultures were subsequently treated with interleukin 1 to initiate catabolic processes that mimic cartilage degradation in arthritis. Results show that supplementation specifically with n-3 PUFA, but not n-6 PUFA, causes a decrease in both degradative and inflammatory aspects of chondrocyte metabolism, whilst having no effect on the normal tissue homeostasis. Collectively, our data provide evidence supporting dietary supplementation of n-3 PUFA, which in turn may have a beneficial effect of slowing and reducing inflammation in the pathogenesis of degenerative joint diseases in man.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Retracted Publication

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Cartilage, Articular / cytology
  • Cartilage, Articular / drug effects
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism*
  • Cattle
  • Chondrocytes / metabolism*
  • Culture Techniques
  • DNA, Complementary / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism*
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Proteoglycans