Therapeutic effects of fish oil (10 g/day) in rheumatoid arthritis were investigated in a randomized, controlled, double-blind study. Forty-three patients completing the study were evaluated at 0, 3 and 6 months. The nutrient intake in the fish oil group and in the control group was essentially similar. In the fish oil group, the percentage of n-3 fatty acids in serum phosphatidylcholine increased by 9.6 (range 2.6-16.1). Patients in the fish oil group reported a significantly decreased consumption of NSAID at 3 and 6 months, and the status of global arthritic activity improved at 3 months in physician's assessment. Control patients reported an increased global arthritic activity at 6 months. No change was found in patient assessment of pain, duration of morning stiffness or functional capacity. Essentially no change occurred in biochemical markers of inflammation. We conclude that fish oil has small anti-inflammatory effects with at most a NSAID-saving potential. The value of prolonged supplementation remains to be evaluated.